AT&T launches Turbo boost


AT&T Turbo will offer customers the opportunity to purchase enhanced mobile data.

Beginning May 2, AT&T will launch AT&T Turbo, a new service that will enhance wireless connectivity, for $7 per month.

In a press release, the operator stated that the service “allows users the choice to optimize their network when they want by adding additional network resources to their mobile data connection”.

The service is touted as ideal for mobile applications such as gaming, video broadcasting and video conferencing. When every millisecond counts, the new Turbo service can offer less freezing and lower latency.

The Turbo add-on will increase a customer’s level of “priority” on the network. Networks offer various “Quality of Service Class Identifiers” (QCIs)  which determine which users get priority access and faster speeds. A lower number is a better QCI.

With AT&T Turbo, the operator will exercise their ability to adjust a user’s QCI and bump Turbo customers’ service up a notch. Turbo customers will get QCI 7, while other plans sit at QCI 8. An AT&T official noted that “setting QCI levels is not like changing a radio channel. It includes advanced and complex technologies”.

AT&T customers can easily enable or remove the add-on. By using the company’s app or online, customers can add Turbo to eligible plans and remove it when they don’t want it. Once Turbo is enabled, the higher priority service will be available immediately. The service will not use standalone (SA) 5G technology, but will require users to have a 5G-capable phone.

The press release announcing the Turbo launch made explicit reference to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) newly re-instated net neutrality rules. The statement specifies that “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”.

AT&T has gone further to clarify that Turbo will not run afoul of net neutrality rules. A spokesperson stated that network slicing is not involved. Ahead of the FCC’s net neutrality vote, AT&T and other wireless providers had requested the agency to avoid rules that might prevent services like network slicing.

Network slicing allows operators to offer varied service tiers over dedicated portions of their networks. This requires SA 5G technology and is in the early stages of being rolled out by some operators. In the FCC’s final net neutrality rules, there was no specific mention of network slicing.

Despite the lack of clarity about the future of network slicing, AT&T has already hinted that it has big plans for enhancing customer experience. While this may not necessarily involve network slicing, the operator stated that it plans to “continue to advance and evolve AT&T Turbo”.

Cox Communications had launched a similar  “Elite Gamer” service in 2020. This add-on also cost $7 per month and offered customers the opportunity to improve the connection between their home internet service and video game servers by up to 32%. Cox discontinued the service in late 2023, citing lower than expected demand.

Given the potential for changes to internet regulation after the 2024 presidential election, and the failure of Cox’s service booster add-on, there is some uncertainty about AT&T Turbo’s future.

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