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Nhwhazup

macrumors 68040
Original poster
Sep 2, 2010
3,060
1,301
New Hampshire
I’ve been with ATT for 15 years and they have the best service in my area.

So my question is - does anyone have the prepaid plans and what is you experience with them?

I had a 5 gb a month plan and the price went up. So I was looking at the prepaid plan - $300 up front and $25 per month for 16 gb per month. Comes out to $50 a month. I tried to do a switch but it was impossible. Went to an ATT store and they told me I would have to sign up for the prepaid plan as a new plan, get a new phone number, wait for the SIM card and then cancel the old plan.

She also told me that although the prepaid plan is high speed, I wouldn’t be happy with the service as the wireless plans take precedence over the prepaid plans when it comes to towers.

Anyone out there with the ATT prepaid plan? Pros? Cons?
 

now i see it

macrumors G3
Jan 2, 2002
9,471
18,917
I had AT&T prepaid as my only service (no home Wi-Fi) for many years and I still have it but now I have a home Wi-Fi connection too (not AT&T).

The horrible plans they have are the ones that throttle your speed “when congestion occurs”. In my case, I was throttled continuously and had super slow internet more often than not. Forget about ever streaming an embedded video on a webpage. Not possible.

It may have been my town, but internet speed always got slow in the afternoon likely when people got home from work.

Their website to setup and change plans on their prepaid only website can sometimes only be accessed using a cellular connection.

AT&T Prepaid cellular link below

AT&T Prepaid
 

tenordrum

macrumors member
Jan 26, 2019
98
179
DC Beltway
My wife's phone (IP7) is on the AT&T prepaid plan. $300 up front for 8 gb per month for the entire year. She would never use even 1 gb. Their phone reps and the in person store reps in my area (Northern VA) were very helpful. It was a lot easier to reach the service rep at AT&T than the "service" reps at Verizon for my phone.

Since she has the older IP7 we don't know if her plan would give her 5G service unless we upgraded her phone, which is not something she wants. Otherwise no issues using the service.
 

The1Biz

macrumors member
Dec 7, 2018
38
71
I had a grandfathered unlimited plan where they kept raising prices, and then after the 6s they stopped subsidizing phones. When they did this, I thought they would drop prices and offer discounts if you brought your own phone but prices never went down and they never gave consumers a break in my opinion. They had opened up some of the data limits, I really didn't need unlimited so I had no problem ditching my old plan. So, I switched to AT&T prepaid before going to T-Mobile, where luckily I have good coverage.

With AT&T prepaid, all help comes from telephone support. At least years ago, in store people did not have anything to do with prepaid and didn't have any way to help you. So, with any problems you are stuck, and have to deal with telephone support. Their website wasn't terrible.

With cheaper service, some of the roaming agreements don't exist. In northern Maine, I did not have service while my friend with postpaid was still able to use his phone even without AT&T towers.

The customer reps spoke with an accent I couldn't identify, and sometimes had trouble understanding, and again these were your only sources for help.

I was able to port my number over with no problems, I'm surprised the rep had an issue with this. I'm assuming you should be able to move your number anywhere due to the FCC mandating it.

Prices were ok for the time, but now if you have T-Mobile available I'd consider Mint for service which is $30/month unlimited prepaid if you pay in advance.
 

Nhwhazup

macrumors 68040
Original poster
Sep 2, 2010
3,060
1,301
New Hampshire
Thanks. So the tower priority for post paid plans sounds correct then. I guess I’ll stick with my current plan.
 

The1Biz

macrumors member
Dec 7, 2018
38
71
I would think priority would be an issue only if you are in a city where user density would be a problem, the roaming issue is something else so if you don't travel much it shouldn't be a deal breaker. I also got sick of AT&T pushing TV services as well. I just want a decent cheap cell phone plan, I don't care about bundles like how Comcast/xFinity is pushing home everything and cell phone service. I was wondering if AT&T calmed down and went back to their core business.
 

CoMoMacUser

macrumors 6502a
Jun 28, 2012
810
89
I've worked in wireless since the 2G days. I've been a customer of AT&T's Cricket prepaid service for several years. Great value for the money. Downloads are throttled at 8 Mbps, which is plenty fast for how I use my phone (e.g., FB, IG, email).
 

webkit

macrumors 6502a
Jan 14, 2021
615
406
United States
Stick to post-paid plans as they offer better value and service priority. Although too be fair only certain post-paid plans offer top priority.

The "value" aspect is going to depend on the person's usage level and needs. Some prepaid plans can be less than half the cost of a carrier's least expensive postpaid plan.
 

Nhwhazup

macrumors 68040
Original poster
Sep 2, 2010
3,060
1,301
New Hampshire
The "value" aspect is going to depend on the person's usage level and needs. Some prepaid plans can be less than half the cost of a carrier's least expensive postpaid plan.
I don’t need a ton of gb per month but I definitely want top level high speed that isn’t throttled or lower on the cell tower tier.
 

NoBoMac

Moderator
Staff member
Jul 1, 2014
4,067
2,240
They throttle the unlimited plan, or if you exceed your GB limit. And videos in that they downgrade the stream for that.

I'm in the same boat, only using about 1.2-1.5GB/mo, what with wifi pretty much everywhere I go. Roadtrips, the number really jumps, but with rollover, I've got data in the bank ($30/mo, 5GB). Been using the ATT prepaid plan for almost four years now and have not noticed any difference vs ATT unlimited postpaid I had.
 
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webkit

macrumors 6502a
Jan 14, 2021
615
406
United States
That’s even better. Do you have a prepaid plan? How is the service?

I don't have a prepaid plan so can't speak to service quality.



I don’t need a ton of gb per month but I definitely want top level high speed that isn’t throttled or lower on the cell tower tier.

It seems like you'd be a good candidate for a prepaid plan like the AT&T 16GB deal you mentioned. Keep in mind that the $300 is non-refundable so if you are concerned about potentially being dissatisfied with the service, you may want to first try a different AT&T prepaid plan as kind of a "test run." Their 5GB prepaid plan is only $5/month more.
 

prss14

macrumors 6502
Jul 18, 2009
430
900
Kentucky
Switched our family to the At&T prepaid from post paid about 2 years ago. Only difference is we all pay a lot less and have more data per line. There has been no difference in service for any of us. We live in a more rural setting, but when we go to larger cities I can't tell a difference. When I do speed tests it is routinely over 100mb down and 10-30 mb up. I also buy the prepaid cards from Target when they are on sale. Saves 5% with a Red-card and however much they are on sale (ex. buy $50 get 10% off next card types of sales). Also, At&T doesn't charge sales tax if you have a credit on your account.

What I did, and recommend you do, is go to the store get a prepaid sim and just pay for a month. Put it in an old phone or swap the sims and see if there is a coverage or priority difference. Not a guarentee to cover all situations, but showed me that for my area I would most likely see no difference and that is what I have experienced so far.
 
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ecschwarz

macrumors 65816
Jun 28, 2010
1,376
303
I'll throw in that there are some instances where prepaid and postpaid have the same priority, although the water has gotten muddier lately.

In the case of AT&T, they added the Elite tier which is higher priority than most prior postpaid plans, while the fixed-data prepaid plans and Unlimited Plus prepaid plan are the same priority as every other postpaid plan - this explanation is a pretty thorough analysis and combs over a lot of the network management fine print: https://coveragecritic.com/mobile-phone-service/atts-data-prioritization-and-deprioritization/

Other than not having access to the AT&T app (you'd use the old paygonline.com site), service on many of AT&T's prepaid plans are similar to postpaid in day-to-day use.

One thing that has changed is that Cricket's Unlimited More plan is now QCI 8 (aka postpaid priority aside from Elite), while Cricket's Unlimited Core is still QCI 9. Cricket has also gotten rid of the 8Mbps and 3Mbps speed caps.

In comparison, T-Mobile's prepaid plans have postpaid priority, while Metro, Mint, etc. are lower priority. Verizon deprioritizes everything prepaid.

A bit on the various carriers QCI values: https://coveragecritic.com/mobile-phone-service/qci-qos-class-identifiers-explained/
 

jagfan

macrumors member
Oct 28, 2014
56
18
JAX, FL area
I had AT&T postpaid for over 15 years. Ported to their prepaid plans 4 years ago. Completed the process at an AT&T corporate store. If using a store, you must use a corporate store rather than an authorized retailer. I have never had a problem with the service and have changed plans using their online website. Like another poster, I purchase prepaid phone cards from Target online when they are on sale - saving money and taxes. I will never go back to postpaid. That is a racket.
 
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Nhwhazup

macrumors 68040
Original poster
Sep 2, 2010
3,060
1,301
New Hampshire
Thanks so much for all your feedback. I just paid for the 300/year 16 gb per month plan. I did it online. I will keep my current plan for a few extra weeks and swap SIM cards back and forth to see if any major difference in service. Worst case scenario, I can give the prepaid to one of the kids or sell it discounted to a family member.

The current plan I have is the Elite Unlimited which is 95 per month. I pay 75 after my discounts. So if the prepaid works out it’s 3 times cheaper.
 
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Nhwhazup

macrumors 68040
Original poster
Sep 2, 2010
3,060
1,301
New Hampshire
I had AT&T postpaid for over 15 years. Ported to their prepaid plans 4 years ago. Completed the process at an AT&T corporate store. If using a store, you must use a corporate store rather than an authorized retailer. I have never had a problem with the service and have changed plans using their online website. Like another poster, I purchase prepaid phone cards from Target online when they are on sale - saving money and taxes. I will never go back to postpaid. That is a racket.
Why do you have to buy prepaid phone cards? The plan says it comes with unlimited talk and text.
 

ecschwarz

macrumors 65816
Jun 28, 2010
1,376
303
Why do you have to buy prepaid phone cards? The plan says it comes with unlimited talk and text.
You don't have to buy them, but refill cards are basically "gift cards" towards service, so if you're on a monthly plan that is $50, a $50 gift card will cover it entirely. Sometimes people buy these on sale ($5 off $50+ or buy-one-get-one-20%-off are popular sales) and that way they're saving a little bit of money by preloading a balance on their account...on the other hand, you can't leave without losing the balance, so it's a little like your annual plan.
 

BeatCrazy

macrumors 68040
Jul 20, 2011
3,562
2,398
I don’t need a ton of gb per month but I definitely want top level high speed that isn’t throttled or lower on the cell tower tier.
All prepaid plans will be 'lowest on the cell tower tier'. This is known as congestion prioritization. It's not throttling.

When 100 people want to connect to the same tower, the scheduler has to prioritize. FirstNet/first responders get the highest prioritization. Next up is the highest tier postpaid plans. Then the 'value' postpaid plans. Near the bottom is prepaid. And at the very bottom is wireless home internet devices/plans.

If there's no congestion, then everyone has the same prioritization. On some plans, if you use up a certain amount of GB per month, you might get knocked down to the lowest priority. But again, you'll only notice if there's congestion.

Although this article describes the tech for LTE, it's also use for 5G:
 

jagfan

macrumors member
Oct 28, 2014
56
18
JAX, FL area
You don't have to buy them, but refill cards are basically "gift cards" towards service, so if you're on a monthly plan that is $50, a $50 gift card will cover it entirely. Sometimes people buy these on sale ($5 off $50+ or buy-one-get-one-20%-off are popular sales) and that way they're saving a little bit of money by preloading a balance on their account...on the other hand, you can't leave without losing the balance, so it's a little like your annual plan.

As noted by ecschwarz, I load the cards on my account to pay for the monthly plan, usually maintaining a 4-6 month balance on account.
 
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eric89074

macrumors 6502
Sep 19, 2012
262
462
As noted by ecschwarz, I load the cards on my account to pay for the monthly plan, usually maintaining a 4-6 month balance on account.
I use my target card to get an additional 5% off refill cards. Sometimes retailers will have specials like buy one card get another 20% off.
 
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