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AT&T vs. Verizon: Which Carrier To Choose in 2021?

Every good industry needs a solid rivalry or two, and the world of US mobile operators is no different. While T-Mobile is undoubtedly a great competitor, today’s article is all about the most famous rivalry in the field: AT&T vs. Verizon. We’ll be comparing the 4G and 5G coverage, overall network speed, pricing plans and perks, and finally, customer support and reputation of the two companies. Let’s get started.

Network Coverage and Speed

Although both operators are leaders nationwide, AT&T coverage wins when it comes to 3G and 5G networks, while Verizon dominates the most commonly used 4G network. Verizon’s 5G map still has a ways to go, however, so AT&T is currently in the lead in terms of 5G availability across the country.

Speaking of Verizon vs. AT&T coverage, both carriers use a mix of low-band and high-band spectrum 5G internet, with mmWave tech utilized in select cities for ultimate connection speeds. Verizon recently spent $1.9 billion at a CBRS auction, allowing it to bolster its already impressive 4G LTE and growing 5G networks with the 1-6 GHz mid-band spectrum. AT&T currently holds the title for most comprehensive 5G coverage. However, Verizon is rapidly catching up while having faster internet at 4G and setting up a quicker 5G platform.

Further expanding on the AT&T vs. Verizon speed discussion, RootMetrics did an in-depth study of the three major phone carriers in the US, analyzing network speed and coverage during the second half of 2020. The results are a resounding win for Verizon: It had speeds of at least 30, 40, or 50 Mbps while recording no results lower than 20 Mbps. It also won twice as many rewards for network reliability compared to AT&T.

However, AT&T recorded the fastest median (77.5 Mbps) and 5G (90.4 Mbps) city-wide speed in Kansas City, MO, while having at least 50% availability in 33 cities, compared to only 10 on Verizon’s network

Pricing Plans and Features

Whether you choose Verizon or AT&T may depend on price as much as network coverage and speed. Both companies like to push costly subscriptions with no data caps except for streaming. However, Verizon’s unlimited data plans are on average $5 more expensive at each tier. 

AT&T’s plans start with the Unlimited Starter pack, which will set you back $65 per month for a single line, or as little as $35 per line if you get four. It offers 5G access in select areas and unlimited texting from the US to more than 120 countries but caps your video streaming at 1.5 Mbps. 

Moving on from AT&T to Verizon, Big Red’s comparable plan is called Start Unlimited. It costs $70 for a single line, but if you add four or more, the price will be the same as AT&T. The main benefit here is six months of free Disney+, Apple Music, and Discovery+, as well as 600 GB of Verizon cloud storage. 

The following two Verizon unlimited data plans, Play More and Do More, bump up the price to $80 for a single device, while AT&T’s Unlimited Extra costs $75. In terms of features, AT&T adds 15 GB of hotspot data per line per month and advanced mobile security, while Verizon sweetens the deal with six months of free Hulu streaming or 50% off of your connected mobile device’s plan. 

The main advantage of AT&T that Verizon cannot match is offering premium tier customers an HBO Max subscription, thanks to the company’s acquisition of Time Warner Inc. in 2018. As with other AT&T unlimited plans, AT&T Unlimited Elite is $5 cheaper compared to Verizon’s top Get More Unlimited plan ($85 vs. $90 for a single device).

In addition to the streaming and cloud service benefits, both carriers offer similar deals on trading in your old mobile device and offer mostly similar models at comparable prices.

Not all phones on offer are the same, however. When comparing AT&T vs. Verizon phones, the former offers models, such as Microsoft’s Surface Duo, while Verizon has exclusive rights to premium Motorola phones, such as Razr and Edge Plus. 

Customer Service and Reputation

Both carriers offer multiple ways of getting in touch, ranging from dedicated phone lines and live chat to email tickets and social networks. According to a recent study by data analytics and consumer intelligence company J.D. Power, customers prefer Verizon. It was rated second in customer satisfaction, with 805 points, just below T-Mobile’s 832. AT&T, like Verizon, trails T-Mobile in this area, coming in at fourth place with 793 points, just below Segment Average and above Sprint.

Both carriers are rated A+ on BBB but also have fairly dismal customer review scores there (not a surprise, considering disgruntled customers are the ones who leave the most BBB reviews). Overall, while AT&T’s service reviews are a little behind those of T-Mobile and Verizon ratings, you are likely not going to have a drastically different experience, regardless of the carrier you choose. 

FAQ

Is AT&T or Verizon better?

AT&T and Verizon both offer compelling packages but differ slightly in a few areas. When it comes to 5G speed, Verizon is faster, but AT&T’s network edges out Verizon’s 5G coverage map. Verizon’s 4G network is also more robust, offering better speeds and coverage overall. AT&T’s deals are generally a bit cheaper, and its top-tier plan offers a free HBO Max subscription for the entire duration of your contract.

Is AT&T coverage as good as Verizon?

While AT&T’s coverage map has gotten a lot better over the past decade, Verizon still has the edge when it comes to the 4G network. AT&T, on the other hand, has better 3G and 5G coverage at the moment. Keep in mind, however, that comparing AT&T’s coverage map vs. Verizon is not really needed in most places around the US: Both carriers cover most people’s needs. As such, you can choose your phone carrier based on other, more relevant factors, such as speed and price.

Should I switch from AT&T to Verizon?

Which carrier you go for will depend on numerous factors, such as whether you are on 4G or 5G, where you are located, and which extra perks you want from your mobile operator. Switching from AT&T to Verizon and vice versa is a reasonably straightforward process, but make sure to check out our detailed comparison above before making the jump.

Can I switch from AT&T to Verizon and keep my number?

While not every number in the US is eligible, this handy page will help you check if yours is. Before you can switch, you’ll need to provide your Social Security number, driver’s license, credit card details, and a copy of your current bill with AT&T.

Is Verizon worth the money?

In our opinion, Verizon offers exceptional 4G coverage and speeds, well worth the asking price. That being said, AT&T is currently better for 5G. Check out our detailed AT&T vs. Verizon comparison above to see the other differences between the two phone carriers and make up your own mind.

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