Is AT&T Fiber Internet Worth It?

AT&T Fiber provides a compelling alternative to cable in urban and suburban markets across the US.

Since AT&T updated their internet-only pricing in late 20201, their fiber internet service is now available in three plan tiers by speed: 100, 300, and 1,000 Mbps.

The pricing on these plans ranges from $35–80 per month. This is equivalent with the $40–60 entry-level pricing common with their main cable competitors, Spectrum and Xfinity, and much more favorable on the gigabit plans.

At a high level, AT&T Fiber is almost always the fastest unlimited internet option where it’s available. It’s a good fit for internet-only households and cord cutters.

Cable should only be considered if price and sports programming are your primary considerations.

Here’s a top-level summary of speed and pricing for all current AT&T Fiber internet plans. I’ll dig into the fees, fine print, and TV options below.

Plan NameAdvertised speedFirst Year PriceFinal Price
Fiber Internet 100100 Mbps$35/mo$55
Fiber Internet 300300 Mbps$45/mo$65
Fiber Internet 1000940 Mbps$60/mo$80

Which AT&T Fiber Internet Plan is Best?

The 1,000 Mbps plan is fun if you can afford it, but 90% of customers won’t notice the difference between 100 and 1,000 Mbps in daily use. With that in mind, I’d suggest:

  • 2–3 users in small home or apartment: AT&T Fiber 100 Plan.
  • 3–5 users in single family home: AT&T Fiber 300 Plan.
  • Power users, home office, large family: AT&T Fiber 1,000 Gigabit Plan.

Going with the 100 or 300 plan tiers will save you as $360-600 over the first two years of service compared with the top-tier Gigabit plan, accounting for differences in promo pricing and equipment fees.

Pros and Cons of AT&T Fiber Internet

There are two factors that make AT&T Fiber worth considering as an alternative to cable:

  1. Upload speeds: AT&T Fiber upload speeds match their download speeds, which results in upload performance as much as 25X better than cable.
  2. Reliability: Fiber internet is delivered on fiber-optic lines, which are more reliable than cable and less prone to slowdowns during peak use times.

However, AT&T Fiber does come with some drawbacks:

  1. Premium sports options: Cable companies still have the edge when it comes to premium sports access. It’s likely AT&T will add NFL Sunday Ticket to AT&T internet/TV bundles in the future, but for now it’s exclusively licensed with their satellite service.2
  2. Equipment limitations: While competitors like Spectrum and Xfinity will allow you to use your own modem and router, AT&T requires you to lease and use their equipment on all plans. The only way around it is to put their router in “bridge mode” and connect yours on top of it — and you still have to pay the $$10 monthly fee.

Important distinction: AT&T Fiber vs AT&T DSL/IPBB Internet

Shopping for AT&T internet can be confusing because they operate two different networks: an older DSL network, and a newer fiber-optic network.

If you’re in an AT&T DSL service area rather than an AT&T Fiber service area, you are almost certainly better off with cable due to the lower speeds and data caps on AT&T DSL.

You can check if your address is in a Fiber or DSL area at the AT&T website. Note that the DSL plans will be described as “IPBB” or “High-speed internet,” or even “hybrid-fiber,” which can be confusing for non-techies. In short, if the top speed is 5–100 Mbps and they only list one plan, it means they haven’t built fiber in your neighborhood yet.

AT&T Fiber Speeds: are they good?

Let’s start with the speeds on offer, since they are the main area where AT&T Fiber is different from basic cable or wireless.

As mentioned above, AT&T Fiber service is symmetrical, so you will see very high upload speeds relative to cable. While the highest cable plan upload speeds from Xfinity, Spectrum, and Cox cap out at 35 Mbps, AT&T Fiber’s lowest upload speed is 100 Mbps. On the high end, they go up to 840 Mbps for the top-tier Gigabit plan.

Note that while the Gigabit plan is advertised as “1,000 Mbps,” you’ll likely see about 940 Mbps download and 840 Mbps at peak performance, with speed tests over WiFi likely to be closer to 600/500.

This is normal for consumer fiber connections, which use a technology called GPON to deliver service rather than direct ethernet connections. The line is effectively “shared,” which brings down the cost for AT&T and results in lower consumer plan pricing.

Unlike cable, the fiber lines have very high data capacity — so even when “shared,” you won’t experience slowdowns in the evening as is common with cable.

As for the gig speeds: unless you’re running a massive call center out of your basement, you’re very unlikely to notice the difference between 940 and 1,000 Mbps service — I’m honestly not sure how they get away with advertising higher than the official speed, but regardless the difference is minor.

AT&T Fiber as a cable internet alternative

Here’s how the internet-only base plans compare between AT&T and their main competitors:

Note that this table features internet-only pricing based on the Western US region. Full comparisons of AT&T vs Xfinity and AT&T vs Spectrum are available here, using test addresses for AT&T in Los Angeles.
ProviderService typeEntry speedEntry priceWiFi Fee
AT&TFiber100 (plans up to 940 Mbps)$35+$10
SpectrumCable100 (plans up to 940)$49.99+$5
XfinityCable25 (plans up to 1,000)$29.99+$14
CoxCable10 (plans up to 940)$29.99+$10.99

TV is a bit more complex, since the mix-and-match nature of the services and myriad local and licensing fees makes it hard to promise a specific price.

Is the Price of AT&T Fiber Worth It?

AT&T Fiber internet-only plan pricing looks low on the surface, but there are two factors that make the actual price higher:

  1. The sticker price does not include the required $10 per month WiFi equipment fee.
  2. The advertised price is actually a promotional rate, which “times out” after the first 12 months of service.

Important note: “sign-up price” vs “final price”

Like pretty much all cable and telecom companies, AT&T will give you a discount in the first year and raise the price substantially in the second.

This can be problematic, because sales people and the online signup process have one thing in common: they downplay the actual price in order to convert more sales.

As a result, the price of service for internet-only fiber plans rise as much as 57% after the first year.

I’ve broken down the price differences between your first and second year of service in the table below — you should review it closely before making the call.

Plan NameAdvertised priceFirst year price + WiFi feeFinal Price + WiFi fee
Fiber Internet 100$35/mo.$45/mo.$65/mo.
Fiber Internet 300$45/mo.$55/mo.$75/mo.
Fiber Internet 1000$60/mo.$70/mo.$90/mo.

This looks bad, but it’s sadly pretty normal as a marketing strategy for internet providers. All the big providers aside from perhaps Centurylink do it; even well-liked local operators like Sonic.

It’s mostly only very small or competitive providers like Ting or Google Fiber that opt for flat-rate pricing, or providers focused on more rural areas who do lower overall prices with long contracts. AT&T Fiber doesn’t fall into either of those categories.

On the plus side, AT&T Fiber recently dropped contract requirements, meaning that you can cancel AT&T internet at any time without incurring an early termination fee.

AT&T TV vs Cable bundle alternatives

AT&T owns and operates a number of TV services, ranging from DirecTV satellite service to streaming services like HBO Now.

If you’re getting AT&T Fiber, the main bundle option for TV is going to be their main TV service, launched in 2020, which is creatively named “AT&T TV.” (No, I’m not joking.)

It has two big problems, which aren’t deal-breakers for everyone, but are important to understand before signing up:

  1. A two-year contract is required for the promotional price you see advertised.
  2. Even with the contract, your price will almost double (86%!) after the first year of service… which thanks to the contract, you’re stuck with.

Now, at the surface, AT&T TV pricing looks reasonable for what you get. The channel lineup is sort of a hybrid between traditional cable bundles and YouTube TV; it comes with a slim DVR-type device that goes on top of your TV, and delivers streamed content in a traditional channel-surfing package.

However, the pricing is particularly deceptive on this product. For example, once your first year of the base plan ends, your price goes from the initial promotion of $49.99/mo all the way up to $93/mo.

That’s a huge jump, and it’s not particularly competitive with what Xfinity and Spectrum offer in terms of TV bundles. Xfinity delivers a much better integrated experience that has more content and features at a lower price point. Spectrum is a bit more no-frills, but it does it at a much lower price over multiple years.

This could change if AT&T brings NFL Sunday Ticket to the table, since let’s be real; if you’re looking at TV bundles, you’re probably doing it for the sports lineup.

I’ll update this post if it happens, but for now it’s still not clear if DirecTV will be sold off or not, and in either case, who will take on the Sunday Ticket rights and under what conditions.

For now, the main benefit of AT&T TV is that they have extensive sports programming, including regional sports networks like Fox. They’re the only streaming platform with those rights currently, so it makes sense as an alternative to going with a cable TV company — but not so much as an alternative to Hulu or Netflix, in my opinion.

Is AT&T Fiber available for low-income households?

AT&T has a low-income plan called AT&T Access 10, which provides discounted service for homes that participate in qualifying public assistance programs such as food stamps or school lunches.

If you qualify for AT&T’s low-income discount offering, you will get it over fiber lines if you are in a fiber service area. However, the speed will be throttled to meet the maximum standards shown below for the plan, which are extremely low compared with the standard rate consumer plan.

It’s also worth noting that AT&T Fiber is primarily available in higher-income neighborhoods, given that there is more incentive to build in those locations to maximize yield from the network investment. 3 It’s therefore unlikely that there’s Fiber-to-the-Home service at your building, if you’re in a lower-rent neighborhood.

Plan NameSpeed Down/UpMonthly PriceWiFi Fee
AT&T Access 1010/Variable Mbps$10/mo $0/mo

Frequently Asked Questions

Does AT&T Fiber internet have data caps?

AT&T does not place data caps on their fiber-to-the-Home internet plans, including the 100, 300, and 1,000 Gigabit plan tiers. AT&T Fiber plans have unlimited data use. The company does have caps on their IPBB or DSL plans, although caps can be removed for an additional fee of around $30 per month.

Is AT&T fiber good for gaming?

AT&T is a good choice for gaming because it offers bandwidth up and down of at least 100 Mbps on all plans, meaning that you’ll have no issue streaming from a provider like Stadia or streaming live to a platform like Twitch. The bandwidth on all AT&T Fiber plans is sufficient for 4K definition video over WiFi, and the pure fiber connection produces lower ping measurements relative to cable or DSL. You can expect ping to be 20–30ms lower since the network is newer and will have newer switching equipment at all hops between your home and the server.

Page Summary
  • AT&T Fiber plans come in three tiers: 100, 300, and 1,000 Mbps.
  • WiFi fees are present on all plans, effectively adding $10 per month to the price you see advertised. The fee cannot be removed as AT&T equipment is required.
  • 1,000 Mbps is the fastest plan currently offered, however the actual top speed of the gigabit plan is 940 Mbps download and 840 Mbps upload.

Author
Jameson Zimmer
Broadband Market Analyst
Author Bio →


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Last Update: March 25, 2021
Published: February 26, 2021
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