We’ve spent years reviewing the largest internet providers and vetting AT&T and Xfinity individually. Now we’re comparing their features directly. If both providers are available to you, you’ll need to consider the speeds you want, your budget, whether to bundle services or not, and how much you value customer service.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly plan, Xfinity’s packages currently start about $10 cheaper per month than AT&T. But when you bundle with AT&T’s renowned DIRECTV service, fees are waived and the promotional value increases. AT&T also excels at customer service, though Xfinity isn’t too far behind. We recommend reflecting on which features you value most as we dive into a detailed comparison.
AT&T vs. Xfinity Overview
One of the biggest pain points of internet service is customer service. Billing discrepancies, miscommunications, endless phone trees, price hikes, and unreliable connections all plague the industry. To compare providers on this aspect, we analyzed customer satisfaction ratings from J.D. Power and the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). A comparably well-rated provider is more likely to appease concerns, offer fair pricing, and promptly solve technical issues.
AT&T often ranks well for its customer service. AT&T rates second place with a 69/100 from the ACSI (just behind Verizon’s 70/100). The company also won the J.D. Power award for customer service in the East and South regions with a 5/5. Although everyone’s experience can vary, with AT&T you have a much better chance of experiencing smooth interactions and accurate billing.
While Xfinity by Comcast doesn’t rate quite as well as AT&T, it’s customer service isn’t as bad as you’d think. The company has earned itself a pretty public reputation for poor customer service — likely attributed to visibility (it’s widely available) and a few public incidents. Xfinity’s customer service scores from the ACSI have steadily improved each year. In 2019, they scored a 61/100, placing them in fourth of the eleven nationwide providers ranked. Comcast was actually the J.D. Power award recipient for customer satisfaction in the North Central region, with a 5/5 overall. Though your experience may not be as seamless as it might be with AT&T, Xfinity is far from the worst internet service provider.
The actual speeds and plans available to you will vary depending on your address. One neighborhood could only have access to one provider and two speeds plans, while another might have three providers to choose from and six speeds plans from each.
AT&T is available in 21 states and has both DSL and fiber-optic internet services, although both are rarely available in the same area. AT&T’s fiber service is mostly found in dense urban areas, while DSL reaches rural neighborhoods. Its fiber internet typically comes in three speeds, 100 Mbps, 300 Mbps, or 1000 Mbps, and is best suited to intense internet users. If AT&T DSL service is available to your home, there are generally a wide variety of potential speed options. You could be offered anywhere from 5 Mbps to 100 Mbps, a speed sufficient for casual internet use. All of AT&T’s plans, regardless of the speed, usually start at $50 per month. Although the exact offerings are pretty varied depending on location, we appreciate that AT&T can accommodate a wide range of internet users.
Xfinity by Comcast offers cable internet service to 39 states. Cable internet is more widely available than fiber and more reliable than DSL. In the FCC’s 2018 Fixed Broadband Report, Xfinity consistently delivered customers faster speeds than advertised. Advertised plans range from 25 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps, starting around $40 per month (a bit cheaper than AT&T’s starting rate). You also have a few different contract options with Xfinity — month-to-month (for a slightly higher monthly rate), 1 year, and 2 year. Xfinity’s internet plans are reliable, widely available, flexible, and budget-friendly.
For those that want more than just internet service, considering the quality of a provider’s bundling options is important. If you can get TV, internet, and phone service from the same provider it will save you money and be simpler to manage.
Bundling your services with AT&T can come with a lot of perks. Popular bundling promotions can help lower your combined monthly fees, reduce or even eliminate initial setup or installation charges, and in some cases even a visa gift card. Even without the promotional savings, AT&T’s satellite TV service, DIRECTV, is a great option. In our review of TV providers, DIRECTV was a clear fan favorite. DIRECTV has six channel packages to choose from, impressive sports programming, and a powerful DVR.
With Xfinity, you can bundle your internet and TV services with home security. In our review of Xfinity’s home security, we like how easy it was to customize your starting equipment package and the seamless integration with Xfinity’s other services. You can control the automation and security system from your TV with the remote, for example. Though not as impressive as DIRECTV, Xfinity’s TV service is pretty satisfactory. You’ll have plenty of channel packages to choose from and a perfectly standard DVR service.
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How to Compare Internet Companies
Your very first step when searching for an internet provider is to find which ones actually service your address. Chances are you’ll have few options — the Institute for Local Self-Reliance reported that 39% have access to only one broadband provider. There’s no use in comparing internet companies that aren’t available to your address. To find the providers that service your home you can ask your neighbors, input your address directly into popular provider’s sites, and use online resources like Allconnect.
Determine the speeds you need
Once you know which providers are options, you’ll need to compare the plans they offer. Internet plans are based on the speed and bandwidth you’ll purchase. To figure out how much speed your home needs, you’ll need to consider the demand of your home’s internet activity and the number of devices connecting to the internet (everything from computers to smart thermostats). We’ve consulted network experts, FCC reports, and online guides to build a chart that should help you find a potential baseline speed.
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Light use: emails, web browsing, social media, SD video streaming
Moderate use: music streaming, occasional online gaming, streaming HD video on one or two devices.
High use: Multiple devices streaming HD video simultaneously, multiplayer gaming, video conferencing.
Very high use: Multiple devices streaming HD or 4K video simultaneously, large file downloading, multiplayer gaming, video conferencing.
Vet for value
Price alone won’t dictate the best deal. There are a few factors that will influence the value of an internet package. Installation and equipment fees, post-contract price hikes, and restrictive contracts can all influence how much you’ll actually pay. Enticing promotional offers and bundling opportunities should be considered too. Essentially, we recommend you take your time shopping around and compare the smaller details before signing up.
Who is the best internet service provider?
Most internet providers are actually pretty similar to each other in speed options, prices, and perks. The best ISP for you will depend on what features you prioritize. If you care more about customer service than price, for example, AT&T is probably a better fit than Xfinity. Check out our review of best internet providers for a comprehensive comparison of the most popular providers.
What type of internet connection is best?
There are a few different kinds of technology that can connect you to the internet. They each have different strengths. Fiber-optic internet uses glass cables to transmit data, it’s super fast and reliable but expensive to build out (and thus not widely available). Cable internet is the most popular type of internet and usually comes at a fair price for solid speeds. DSL internet uses existing telephone wires so it has great availability. However, it’s also pretty unreliable and may not deliver the speeds you pay for. Satellite internet is best for remote locations where other internet types can’t access — it comes in only one speed and is usually more pricey.
What internet speed is best for gaming?
Online gaming demands a more advanced internet connection. If available in your area, fiber-optic internet is likely best because it has matching upload and download speeds for sending and receiving data without lag. You’ll also want to look for a provider with generous data caps. We’ve built a full guide and digital calculator to help you find the best internet package for your gaming hobby.