FCC, carriers, come to an agreement on phone unlocking

FCC, carriers, come to an agreement on phone unlocking

The Federal Communications Commission has made an agreement with five major national cellular carriers on principles that will allow customers to easily unlock their phones. The deal, with Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile US, and US Cellular, stipulates when carries would need to allow for phones to be unlocked, among other things. Carriers signing the agreement will need to, for instance, unlock the phones of postpaid customers who have fulfilled their contracts, according to the CTIA:

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.

Other provisions of the agreement include the unlocking of phones for use by overseas military personel, clear notifications to customers eligible for unlocking, and the clear disclosure of the participating carrier's unlocking policies on the carrier's website. This deal makes it easier for those not tied to a contract to move their devices around as they see fit. It's a small but important step towards consumers having more control over their devices.

If you unlock your phone, or are thinking about unlocking it, are you happy about this agreement? Let us know below in the comments.

Source: CTIA

Joseph Keller

Joseph Keller is a news reporter for iMore. He's also chilling out and having a sandwich.

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Reader comments

FCC, carriers, come to an agreement on phone unlocking

14 Comments

I wish they'd add something like "As well as if you buy it off contract". If I pay full price for a phone, there is *no* reason it should be locked to anything. Apart from maybe a CDMA carrier because of the way CDMA works.

I just recently sold my AT&T locked Iphone 5S to turn around and buy a sim free iphone 5S solely based on the fact that since AT&T has severely cracked down so hard on allowing 3rd party vendors to sell unlock codes that out of the thousands who were doing it, only a handful exist and are charging upwards of $100 or more when before one could just spend $2-$5 easily to get their iphone unlocked .

At least the agreement states that carriers MUST allow the device to be unlocked after contractual agreements have been met, and that carriers must now have things posted clearly on their websites in an easy to understand way for consumers.

The only thing that still bothers me is that people will always get that one rep on the phone who will play ignorant and make ridiculous claims like "Oh, we dont unlock phones", or "Well if you unlock your phone that it may not work right" and last but not least "Unlocking phones is illegal"

Just my 2 cents.....

Aside from maybe changing carriers or selling my phone, what real benefit would come from having my phone unlocked?

I have never heard of a (sim) phone that was paid off or bought in full not being able to be unlocked. I purchased a off contract iPhone 5s off eBay a while back and att unlocked it for me no problem whatsoever. The real issue is that the consumer doesn't realize that they are the one who wields the power. Example: if I wanted to stick it to att I could get a subsidized iPhone on contract and just pay the ETF which is way cheaper than a full priced iPhone. If the customer rep feels that you (the customer) don't know anything then they will not tell you. I remember once when Tmobile lowered their unlimited data from 30-20$ some years back. Now mind you at the time I was paying 30$ monthly for a few months before I just happened to stumble on the price change online. When I called in the rep made the change for me but told me flat out "we are in this to make money and had you not said anything neither would we".

This is not a shot at other owners but to me iPhone owners wield the most power when it comes to negotiating favorable price plans. Case in point if att refuses to give me a better deal than let's say vzw I could easily cancel take sell the iPhone have money to pay the ETF and have money left over to buy a new (subsidized) phone. All because iPhones keep there value longer than other devices. This could be a reason as to why att CEO said that subsidized phones may soon vanish.

Just a thought.... Just a thought

Sent from the iMore App

I have never heard of a (sim) phone that was paid off or bought in full not being able to be unlocked. I purchased a off contract iPhone 5s off eBay a while back and att unlocked it for me no problem whatsoever. The real issue is that the consumer doesn't realize that they are the one who wields the power. Example: if I wanted to stick it to att I could get a subsidized iPhone on contract and just pay the ETF which is way cheaper than a full priced iPhone. If the customer rep feels that you (the customer) don't know anything then they will not tell you. I remember once when Tmobile lowered their unlimited data from 30-20$ some years back. Now mind you at the time I was paying 30$ monthly for a few months before I just happened to stumble on the price change online. When I called in the rep made the change for me but told me flat out "we are in this to make money and had you not said anything neither would we".

This is not a shot at other owners but to me iPhone owners wield the most power when it comes to negotiating favorable price plans. Case in point if att refuses to give me a better deal than let's say vzw I could easily cancel take sell the iPhone have money to pay the ETF and have money left over to buy a new (subsidized) phone. All because iPhones keep there value longer than other devices. This could be a reason as to why att CEO said that subsidized phones may soon vanish.

Just a thought.... Just a thought

Sent from the iMore App

I travel Internationally at least once a year; in 2014, I'll visit Italy and India.

In the past, I've requested AT&T to unlock my iPhone - they claim that Apple doesn't allow them to; if it were any other phone, they'd be happy to. I've checked with Apple,, and there is no such policy.

I'm a happy AT&T customer, and with my whole family of six on a shared plan, I'm not going anywhere. All I want is for me to be able to use a local SIM overseas so I don't have to pay ridiculously high rates for voice/data.

I've pled and begged, but AT&T's stand has been firm. So overseas, I'm forced to use my iPhone as a PDA/Camera, and have to buy a Nokia dumbphone for $100 at Amazon (X2, one for my wife) for calls, and an unlocked modem for Wi-Fi.

I understand that AT&T subsidizes my iPhone and has to recoup that amount. However, since I'm in a 2-year contract anyway, where am I going to go, without paying an early termination fee? If I use another carrier, I'm still obligated to pay their monthly minimum.

It's good that AT&T will charge less for an off-contract phone in the future, but the $15 decrease floated around by its CEO doesn't add up to the amount of subsidy over 24 months; they're still charging a lot more. I hope they, like T-Mo, separate the cost of service and subsidy.

Finally, since I'm still under contract, I don't think AT&T will unlock my iPhone to use outside the US.

@barryotoole
For At&t to unlock your iphone it has to be paid off or not currently under contract then all they have to do is have you give them the sim id which they forward to apple for a request to unlock your iPHone. Once that is done all you have to restore your iphone through itunes and once that is done you will get a message that says" Your iphone has now been unlocked"

Att unlocks iphones out of contract already. And when I bought and iphone 5s out of contract it was already unlocked even though it was an att iphone.

Sent from the iMore App

I'm leaving for the Navy next year in June, I have a Sprint iPhone 5S I bought on Launch day. Anyone know what I can do if I want to use my phone on sprint whenever I'm back but want it unlocked to use overseas. Also, I'd like to keep my phone number.

I'm glad to see you will be able to unlock your phone. Once your obligations are met with the carrier you can take the phone and go to any carrier. This great !

Sent from the iMore App

This is good.
Now I wonder if the carriers in my country would do the same. It only makes sense that they are also open to unlocking smartphones once a customer has fulfilled their contract with them.

These companies will always play games with us. They dont care about the customers, they just dialogue terms inwhich their own company/franchise will prosper. There should be a median line in marketing and i believe smart phone companies , especially apple, must address that. @barrytoule:Try iPhoneFactoryUnlockUSA, they always unlocked multiple iphones of mine for free whenever i needed to visit abroad. http://www.iphonefactoryunlockusa.com/att.html
And everybody i would recommend you switch to prepaid carriers like maybe simplemobile, or lycamobile. Verizon sprint att and all these big companies are robbing us