U.S. Carriers and FCC Come to Agreement Over Consumer Unlocking of Mobile Devices

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Apr 12, 2001
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The five major U.S. carriers have come to an agreement with the FCC over a set of voluntary industry principles to make it easier for wireless customers to unlock their devices and switch from carrier to carrier if they wish. The CTIA -- the industry trade group representing AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon in the matter -- says it will recommend the principles be added to the group's "Consumer Code for Wireless Service" and the carriers will commit to implement them within 12 months.

The terms agreed to include [PDF]:
- Disclosure: Each carrier will post on its website its clear, concise, and readily accessible policy on postpaid and prepaid mobile wireless device unlocking.

- Postpaid Unlocking Policy: Carriers, upon request, will unlock mobile wireless devices or provide the necessary information to unlock their devices for their customers and former customers in good standing and individual owners of eligible devices after the fulfillment of the applicable postpaid service contract, device financing plan or payment of an applicable early termination fee.

- Prepaid Unlocking Policy: Carriers, upon request, will unlock prepaid mobile wireless devices no later than one year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time, payment or usage requirements.

- Notice: Carriers that lock devices will clearly notify customers that their devices are eligible for unlocking at the time when their devices are eligible for unlocking or automatically unlock devices remotely when devices are eligible for unlocking, without additional fee. Carriers reserve the right to charge non-customers/non-former customers a reasonable fee for unlocking requests. Notice to prepaid customers may occur at point of sale, at the time of eligibility, or through a clear and concise statement of the policy on the carrier's website.

- Response Time: Within two business days after receiving a request, carriers will unlock eligible mobile wireless devices or initiate a request to the OEM to unlock the eligible device, or provide an explanation of why the device does not qualify for unlocking, or why the carrier reasonably needs additional time to process the request.

- Deployed Personnel Unlocking Policy: Carriers will unlock mobile wireless devices for deployed military personnel who are customers in good standing upon provision of deployment papers.

Carriers reserve the right to decline an unlock request if they have a reasonable basis to believe the request is fraudulent or the device is stolen.
In a statement issued after the agreement was announced, the CTIA noted that "unlocking devices may not necessarily mean full interoperability since devices that work on one provider's network may not be technologically compatible with another wireless provider's network" and that unlocking a device may enable some functionality but not necessarily all.

Early this year, the Library of Congress ruled that it was illegal for certain mobile phone owners to unlock their phones unless specifically authorized by their carrier. This past September, the Obama administration filed a petition with the FCC, asking that carriers be required to unlock mobile devices. This voluntary agreement between the FCC and carriers would appear to forestall the need for legal action by either Congress or the FCC.

Article Link: U.S. Carriers and FCC Come to Agreement Over Consumer Unlocking of Mobile Devices
 

Klae17

macrumors 65816
Jul 15, 2011
1,086
1,207
And how will this take 12 months to implement? Oh right, wring out the customers first.
 
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theheadguy

macrumors 65816
Apr 26, 2005
1,122
1,323
california
The entire concept of locking phones is comical. Customers should pay their bills because they owe the money, not because the carrier can hold them hostage. If bills aren't paid, multi-billion dollar cellular service corporations have the same avenues to collect past due amounts as any other company, they need not keep our phones hostage.
 
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macigo

macrumors regular
Dec 5, 2013
161
0
I still will only buy unlocked from Apple. Do not buy from carriers.
 
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T.Smith4

macrumors newbie
Jun 30, 2012
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This doesn't help those who leave the country. This policy is absolute garbage. If I buy something on my credit card I don't have to wait till it is paid off to use it fully.
 
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carfac

macrumors 65816
Feb 18, 2006
1,217
1
Its about time. A year to implement.... that's BS, but at least there is a path.
 
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Thepoobear

macrumors 6502
Oct 30, 2013
282
0
I wonder how this will affect Sprint? It's my understanding they only unlock for overseas use. I wonder if this will change that? How does it affect used phones? I bought my sprint iphone 5 used on eBay....
 
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Tiger8

macrumors 68020
May 23, 2011
2,479
649
The entire concept of locking phones is comical. Customers should pay their bills because they owe the money, not because the carrier can hold them hostage. If bills aren't paid, multi-billion dollar cellular service corporations have the same avenues to collect past due amounts as any other company, they need not keep our phones hostage.
Actually they should,,, in the first 24 months, because the consumer does not own the phone - yet. Just like a collection agency can get take your car if you don't make payments, carriers should have some protection (not necessarily unlocking) against consumers who pay one bill and go Rouge.

Now what I think should happen is that a process should immediately unlock the phone as soon as they contract is finished, or in case of T-Mo paid in full. You should not have the customer send a fax to request unlock of something they paid for.
 
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Tiger8

macrumors 68020
May 23, 2011
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649
So does this mean that I can make Sprint unlock my off contract iPhone 4s?
Sprint is a helpless case, your best bet is GPP or Gevey SIM unlock in the US, which allows you to override Sprint's code and connect to Net10, Straight talk, etc...
 
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RiddlaBronc

macrumors 6502a
Oct 14, 2013
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Mcallen Tx
I just got an iphone 5s for Sprint. Hopefully by the next year or so they will finally unlock sprint locked phones.

Not that i am going to switch:)
 
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theheadguy

macrumors 65816
Apr 26, 2005
1,122
1,323
california
Actually they should,,, in the first 24 months, because the consumer does not own the phone - yet. Just like a collection agency can get take your car if you don't make payments, carriers should have some protection (not necessarily unlocking) against consumers who pay one bill and go rouge. Now what I think should happen is that a process should immediately unlock the phone as soon as they contract is finished, or in case of T-Mo paid in full. You should not have the customer send a fax to request unlock of something they paid for.
Do you have a credit card? Because credit card companies stand much more to lose ($10K+) if you just walk away without paying your bill. Their business survives and thrives without holding me or anything I buy with their money hostage while I pay down my bill. Perhaps they need to hold you hostage to make sure you pay, but they don't need to do that with me.
 
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Xenomorph

macrumors 65816
Aug 6, 2008
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St. Louis
This may only be going forward. When Verizon was forced to unlock devices as part of their LTE deal, they only started with devices going forward. They refused to unlock existing devices (such as the iPhone 4S).

So those looking for relief from Sprint, they may pull the same thing, and only unlock devices newer than the iPhone 5S.
 
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MattMJB0188

macrumors 68000
Dec 28, 2009
1,984
511
I just got an iphone 5s for Sprint. Hopefully by the next year or so they will finally unlock sprint locked phones.

Not that i am going to switch:)
Who's Sprint? I didn't realize anyone was desperate enough to use a smartphone on their crippled network nowadays?

Can't even count them in the game now, anyway.
 
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CrimsonKnight

macrumors 6502
Apr 15, 2013
331
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Denver, CO
I just got an iphone 5s for Sprint. Hopefully by the next year or so they will finally unlock sprint locked phones.

Not that i am going to switch:)
Right, I agree. Same boat, not switching.. but when my 2 year is up, the phone should be mine to go with wherever depending on the bands it supports.
 
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budselectjr

macrumors 6502a
Oct 6, 2009
972
1,774
Minnesota
Deployed Personnel Unlocking Policy: Carriers will unlock mobile wireless devices for deployed military personnel who are customers in good standing upon provision of deployment papers.
Thats awesome.
 
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dave420

macrumors 65816
Jun 15, 2010
1,407
102
Actually they should,,, in the first 24 months, because the consumer does not own the phone - yet. Just like a collection agency can get take your car if you don't make payments, carriers should have some protection (not necessarily unlocking) against consumers who pay one bill and go rouge.
Not true. Here in the USA you own the phone as soon as you buy it. Your carrier is not taking it back unless you trade it in for a new model. That is what early termination fees and collection agencies are for. Nobody is coming to take your phone.
 
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gnasher729

macrumors P6
Nov 25, 2005
16,699
3,440
The entire concept of locking phones is comical. Customers should pay their bills because they owe the money, not because the carrier can hold them hostage. If bills aren't paid, multi-billion dollar cellular service corporations have the same avenues to collect past due amounts as any other company, they need not keep our phones hostage.
They have these avenues, that's right. However, many people will _think_ that they can buy a phone, pay for one month, and then stop paying and continue using the phone, so there will be many more people doing this. And having to chase up your money is costly; it is very hard to get your money back in that situation. Many people _believe_ that they are not paying anything for the phone and don't even realise that they are paying it monthly in their contract.
 
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RiddlaBronc

macrumors 6502a
Oct 14, 2013
822
498
Mcallen Tx
Who's Sprint? I didn't realize anyone was desperate enough to use a smartphone on their crippled network nowadays?

Can't even count them in the game now, anyway.
I get LTE in my area and works flawlessly. No reason for me to switch. Yes I am aware that Sprint sucks when on 3G but for me its LTE or wi fi
 
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gnasher729

macrumors P6
Nov 25, 2005
16,699
3,440
Do you have a credit card? Because credit card companies stand much more to lose ($10K+) if you just walk away without paying your bill. Their business survives and thrives without holding me or anything I buy with their money hostage while I pay down my bill. Perhaps they need to hold you hostage to make sure you pay, but they don't need to do that with me.
Well, you are not going to walk away. $10K isn't enough to move to Panama. And of that $10K, there is so much interest that if you don't repay, they still make a profit. If I borrow $10K and pay it back within a year, and you borrow $10K and for the next ten years only pay half of the interest so your debt grows and grows, they make a lot more money from your card.
 
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hudson1

macrumors 6502
Jun 12, 2012
378
178
Do you have a credit card? Because credit card companies stand much more to lose ($10K+) if you just walk away without paying your bill. Their business survives and thrives without holding me or anything I buy with their money hostage while I pay down my bill. Perhaps they need to hold you hostage to make sure you pay, but they don't need to do that with me.
It's not quite the same thing as skipping out on a phone contact because the potential legal consequences are more severe when you don't pay a credit card bill.
 
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xmaseve

macrumors regular
Oct 24, 2007
111
1
The entire concept of locking phones is comical. Customers should pay their bills because they owe the money, not because the carrier can hold them hostage. If bills aren't paid, multi-billion dollar cellular service corporations have the same avenues to collect past due amounts as any other company, they need not keep our phones hostage.
I couldn't have said it better myself.

What we really need is companies like Apple and Samsung to simply make one model unlocked phone, instead of caving into the carriers and allowing them to be locked in the first place. This would certainly help with making it much easier to sell the phones and also with manufacturing. Imagine how nice it would be to not have to be asked "what carrier" when you go to buy an iPhone.
 
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