AT&T to offer 'Turbo' boost for $7/month

For $7 per month, AT&T Turbo customers can 'optimize their network' with a new service that can 'help offer real-time responsiveness.' But the details are somewhat murky.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

May 1, 2024

4 Min Read
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AT&T said that, starting May 2, the company will offer customers a way to improve their wireless connection with a new "Turbo" service that costs $7 per month.

"AT&T Turbo allows users the choice to optimize their network when they want by adding additional network resources to their mobile data connection," according to the operator. "For example, if customers want less freezing or stuttering and lower latency when milliseconds matter in gaming, AT&T Turbo can help offer real-time responsiveness by improving the performance of customers' data on the network."

Cnet reported in March that AT&T was preparing to offer a "Turbo" service to its wireless customers. According to a quickly removed update to the operator's iOS app, the service would "provide uninterrupted network speeds during peak traffic times."

According to an article from The Mobile Report this week, AT&T Turbo will allow customers to raise their "Quality of Service Class Identifiers" on AT&T's network.  

Wireless networks have long offered different quality of service (QoS) levels. Broadly, they are used to give one group of subscribers priority access over another group, like giving postpaid customers preference over prepaid customers. For example, Charter's Spectrum Mobile plans access Verizon's network at a different QoS level than similar plans from Comcast's Xfinity Mobile service, Light Reading previously reported. Among some entry-level plans, Charter's QoS Class Identifier (QCI) sits at 8, while Comcast's QCI is 9. A lower number represents better QoS.

An AT&T official confirmed to Light Reading that Turbo will leverage the operator's QCI capabilities. "Setting QCI levels is not like changing a radio channel," the official said. "It includes advanced and complex technologies that enhance the experience. We monitor network performance over time and may adjust QCI levels in response."

The AT&T representative said the service will not use standalone (SA) 5G technology but will require that users have a 5G-capable phone. AT&T did not provide any further details on the speeds users might receive or how they might compare with the speeds they would receive without Turbo.

AT&T provided more information on the service on its website: "AT&T Turbo does not provide extra data and does not apply to messaging or voice. If you exceed your existing allotments your normal network management applies. On AT&T Unlimited Extra EL after 75GB, AT&T may temporarily slow data speeds if the network is busy," the company wrote. "On each eligible plan, after you exceed your hotspot allotment, your hotspot speeds are slowed to a maximum of 128Kbps."

The implications

The introduction of AT&T Turbo comes just days after the FCC passed new net neutrality guidelines intended to ensure fast, open and fair access to Internet services.

AT&T appears aware of the situation: "Consistent with open Internet principles, once turned on the boost applies to a customer's data regardless of the Internet content, applications and services being used," the company said in the press release announcing Turbo.

In the run-up to the FCC's net neutrality vote, AT&T and other wireless providers urged the agency to avoid rules that would hamper new wireless services like network slicing. Network slicing allows operators to offer different service tiers for select customers through dedicated chunks of their network. However, it requires standalone (SA) 5G technology and newer phones – AT&T and some other operators are still in the early stages of rolling that out.

In its final rules, the FCC opted not to specifically address network slicing.

AT&T's new Turbo service faces an uncertain future. For example, cable giant Cox Communications quietly discontinued its low latency "Elite Gamer" service last year. As Light Reading previously reported, the $7 per month service allowed users to improve their connection with video game servers by up to 32%. Cox said it canceled the service due to lower-than-expected demand.

Nonetheless, operators continue to search for new services that might generate additional revenues. For example, Verizon recently began offering customers a way to add a second number to their phones for $10 per month.

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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