AT&T(s t) is no longer saving its sparkly new LTE network for its high-end contract customers. On Friday the company confirmed it is opening up the faster speeds of its LTE and HSPA+ systems to GoPhone prepaid customers.
Those high-capacity connections are only available to customers who buy a compatible device (many phones in GoPhone’s portfolio are either 2G-only or can only access slower HSPA speeds) or to customers who bring their own compatible devices to the network. And yes, that includes new high-end smartphones like the iPhone 5(s aapl) and the Galaxy S 4.
AT&T sells data add-ons to GoPhone plans, ranging from $25 a month for 1 GB to $5 a month for 50 MB. New customers will get immediate LTE and HSPA+ access, but current customers will have to wait a bit. An AT&T spokesman said the carrier is working on ways to extend these new network capabilities to its existing customers with compatible devices, but it’s still working out the details.
AT&T’s archrival Verizon Wireless(s vz)(s vod) has restricted access to its LTE network to only its contract smartphone customers, and it looked like Ma Bell was going to do the same. Earlier this month AT&T launched a new prepaid brand called AIO Wireless, targeting more data savvy smartphone users who didn’t want to deal with contracts. The AIO service, however, doesn’t include access to LTE.
I suspect we’ll see LTE on AIO as it rolls out to new markets, though. Of its two prepaid brands, GoPhone is definitely the lower-end service. If AT&T is finding that its GoPhone customers are asking and willing to pay for LTE, then AIO customers most certainly would do the same.