You are no longer required to subscribe to one of the AT&T’s new plans to get a taste of 5G. The carrier is add 5G and “5G +” (its nickname for millimeter wave 5G) to some of its older unlimited plans including the simply titled Unlimited as well as more advanced levels like Unlimited & More Premium. Daily users are expected to see 5G from March, while business customers with older plans will receive 5G data from April.
You will need a 5G compatible phone (true 5G, not 5G evolution), and you’ll receive an email or text when 5G hits your plan.
Legacy support is part of a larger 5G strategy for 2021. AT&T hopes to have millimeter wave 5G in 17 sports venues by the end of 2021, and hopes to start rolling out its Wireless spectrum in C band Around the same time. In other words, it shifts from deploying basic coverage to increasing average speeds and filling in gaps.
Legacy support is a break from the early days of 5G, when carriers (including parent Engadget Verizon) wanted additional charges for 5G and also direct customers to newer, possibly more expensive plans. It’s unlikely to be an altruistic move, of course. You may be less inclined to switch providers if you know you can get higher speeds from 5G and a lower lag with your existing service. It might be worthwhile for AT&T to sacrifice a bit more subscriber income if that means retaining more customers in the long run.