Smaller carriers band together to push for legal phone unlocking

Smaller carriers band together to push for legal phone unlocking

Regional and rural carriers are allying to back legislative efforts that would legalize cell phone unlocking. The ban on unlocking cell phones came into effect earlier this year and prevents customers from unlocking their phones for use on another carrier. According to Bloomberg:

Regional and rural wireless providers are backing several bills in Congress that would let consumers unlock mobile phones and tablet computers without carriers’ permission. Big phone companies often land exclusive rights to offer the hottest devices, and U.S. rules currently prohibit altering software to let new phones from one carrier to work on other networks.

Apple has been working on making deals with an increasing number of these regional carriers, which often offer lower prices on plans than the larger national operators, but many still lack access to major devices. Unlocking is the only way these carriers get devices like the iPhone, and with customers now forced to pay a higher premium in order to get an unlocked phone, it’s more difficult than ever to attract new users. By backing these legislative efforts, these carriers hope to make it easier for customers to make the switch if they want to.

Have you unlocked your iPhone to move to a smaller carrier? We're you thinking about it before the ban?

Source: Bloomberg

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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

Smaller carriers band together to push for legal phone unlocking

24 Comments

Honestly I hope it gets appealed. I think the ban on unlocking phones harms the mobile industry, people may want to use phones such as iPhones and save up for one and buy one on Craigslist or similar and unlock it for their carrier because they can't afford to move to a carrier that does carry the phone they want.

This is really important. On a separate issue, I have always felt that competition amongst carriers is beneficial to consumers. Take Three in the UK. It is going to offer all customers "all you can eat 4G/LTE data" at no extra cost to existing monthly deals, which puts pressure on EE, a company that charges extortionate prices.

Personally, I don't get why the carriers care about unlocking. They should only care about contract fulfillment. If I have an iPhone 4 on AT&T and want to keep it, but get an iPhone 5 to resell, why should AT&T care at all? I'm renewing my contract, and so long as I continue to pay, is there the slightest difference to AT&T? (Yes, technically they may have to run their 3G network longer, but I don't think they're due to sunset it anytime soon anyways)

Yes, I guess they want to be able to say "we have it exclusively" but that shows their network to be weak. I don't think AT&T has a better network than TMobile because they have the iPhone and TMobile doesn't, I think AT&T has more money to throw at Apple instead of making their network better.*

*Yes, phone makers might charge everyone, and TMobile could just as well move money to get the iPhone, I just don't take it as a knock on their network quality, just on their priorities.

In your scenario, you're not leaving AT&T. What they're trying to prevent is someone leaving after contract fulfillment, or not coming at all if they buy a used phone. If you're iPhone can't work on another carrier, you're probably not going to leave AT&T after your contract is up. In you're case, you're not going to be able to sell your phone either. It will force someone to pick a big carrier if they want an iPhone bad enough since they won't be able to use a used phone anywhere else besides the carrier it was slated for.

Right. But my point is that that isn't the network/service quality/pricing keeping someone there, it is that the big guys have deep enough pockets.

Also, not sure if I said my statement weirdly though. In my scenario, if I stay with my 4 on AT&T, and get a 5 to renew my contract, why should AT&T be able to keep the 5 on their network? I'm fulfilling my contract either way.

The phone shouldn't be keeping me on a network, the quality should.

We're paying too much for plan costs because you're essentially financing the subsidy you got for signing 2 year contracts. End carrier subsidies. All phones sold unlocked. Problem solved. Don't want to pay full retail for a phone? Finance it - separately from your cell phone plan. If the cell phone business plan model were so good, your cable tv provider and/or DirecTV & Dish Network would sell you a deeply discounted TV with a multi-year service contract...

Yeah, if we stop and think about how much we are spending on cell phone plans versus how much we would pay for an a non-contract phone, we would actually be paying the full price of a phone. I never really thought about it that way until you said this.

In the fullness of time, the smaller carriers will be bought up by the larger carriers. Just a matter of economics.

So, where's the iMore story about Andy Rubin stepping down and/or getting a "lateral promotion" from Android over at Google? Or would that be considered taunting within the Big Happy Mobile Nations Family (tm)?

Are we going to tip-toe around that story, as big as it is? Or is there already a story about that at AndroidCenter, or whatever it's called?

This just smells like the canadian wireless industry where our big 3 dictate to the government about how things should work. The USA is a country built on a open and fair marketplace this does not sound like capitalism at all. This is government bowing to the pressure and money of the larger carriers and in turn taking peoples freedom to choose away. Its phones being locked that should be illegal.

I think it is great that they are banding together to slap those major carriers who think about nothing but their greed. Only thing they care about is keeping their absolute control over their devices. It's bad enough that these American Carriers charge the most money for cellphone plans than any other country and I'm sick of them getting their way. The only reason they want to keep phones locked is because they don't want to lose customers. Screw them. We bought the phone fair and square; it is our property; therefore, our choice to go with whichever carrier.

If they keep saying they are losing money because of it, well we don't care. You've been making a STEAL for YEARS over the prices of SMS TEXTS. You had it coming.

The carriers or government should have no say with what we do with our mobile devices so long as we aren't stealing services such as tethering for example. I'm glad to see people standing up against the big carriers in the U.S.!

If I walk out of the store with the phone, it should be mine to do what I please, including unlocking. No matter what I do though, I should have to finish paying my monthly contract until it is done. These two things are independent of each other in my opinion.

Phone unlocking should be legal because you own the phone and you should be able to decide which carrier you want for that phone. If you get a $200 AnoStyle of your iPhone and you want to switch carriers, then you shouldn't have to buy a whole new device. There should be one universal device that all carriers have and are compatible with,

I unlocked my iPhone through ATT last year and truthfully think that the ban is and has been an unnecessary move. I think that a handset that is paid full price for or even contract price should be seen as equipment that is owed by the consumer. After all he/she uses it daily. I hope that this ban is lifted soon. I mean truly what is the point of leaving it?

Thought about unlocking way before the ban because of resale value. Actually got mine unlocked last year through ATT. Understand that the ban is completely useless and should be lifted. We should be allowed to use our $200-$900 device on any net work we want, after all we paid a high price to be able to use it.

That's a smart move on their part for no reason should you not e allowed to unlock your phone. It's time the big carriers stop pushing the customer around. We pay them just to let them do what they want and it's a joke!

I suppose I am just ill informed about most cell unlocking because I could care less about it especially mine. I know it has it's place and why people want their phones unlocked but cannot understand why the govt. or even FCC has to step in to make it illegal. I just don't get it??

I just came from a small carrier (us cellular) that wouldn't allow non us cellular phones on their network. I doubt they are part of this alliance.

Nice gesture by the little guys, but unless we can get government or enough public outcry to get the big 4 to do it, it's not going to mean much for the majority of us who are on them.

Contract fulfilled? Let me use it the way I want then. Simple as that.