SIM cards

Customers to be notified proactively of unlocked status, get devices unlocked for free

The CTIA has announced today it has come to an agreement with the FCC regarding cellphone unlocking. The five largest carriers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular — have signed-on with a deal that increases the transparency and improves the process of unlocking phones in the country.

The full list of six steps towards more consumer-friendly unlocking, which is quite extensive and can be found after the break, will be adopted by each of the five largest carriers and begin to be implemented within three months. The basic idea behind the guidelines follows right in line with what the FCC proposed the CTIA consider just one month ago, including clear policies posted on the carrier's unlocking process, responding to unlock requests within two days and unlocking devices without a fee.

The big sticking point between the wireless group and governing body was the proactive notification of customers that their devices are ready to be unlocked at the end of their contracts, which seems to now be included in the guidelines.

  1. Disclosure. Each carrier will post on its website its clear, concise, and readily accessible policy on postpaid and prepaid mobile wireless device unlocking.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Reading through the list of guidelines ourselves it seems like a pretty solid set of rules, and ones that are roughly followed by most of the carriers already. The full list of six guidelines will be completely implemented in the next 12 months, but interestingly the carriers must implement at least three of the six guidelines within the next three months. Carriers seem to have the choice of which three to go ahead with early, but it's interesting to see a staged rollout.

The CTIA, for better or worse, reminds customers that a guarantee of unlocking does not guarantee interoperability between networks. Just because AT&T will let you unlock your Galaxy S4 doesn't mean you'll now be able to walk into a Sprint store and activate it. The opacity of different frequencies and technologies in use amongst the five big carriers in the U.S. is confusing, to say the least, and continues to be an issue even after this agreement.

Source: CTIA; (2)


Reader comments

CTIA, FCC come to agreement on cellphone unlocking terms


So does this meAn i can call and unlock my phone and it work just like a unsubsidized unlocked phone originally on market

posting while eating gummybears in your girlfriends bedroom

What do you mean by "it work just like a unsubsidized unlocked phone originally on market"?

No. It means that they will unlock your phone only after the contract term has been fulfilled. This is no different than what carriers have been doing except for the proactive notification part. Now instead of you asking, they will let you know if your phone is eligible to be unlocked. I think this is just a big FCC stunt after getting a new head. What they need to consider is unlocking devices that are in contract. Carriers already put early termination fee to cover their losses if one is to break the contract. It is ludicrous for them to lock the devices that 'will be' paid in full. It's like them saying, "I won't trust you to keep the contract", so let me put a lock on your device until you pay up. Greed and mistrust is what lies underneath this whole locking controversy.

No you don't own the phone until it is paid for.

In theory I could put a dumb phone on the line and take my phone to Verizon, and pay less... Well not with Verizon but you get the point.

Unlocking after it is paid for is the best, least hassle, way to go

My phone can beat up your phone. It's bigger, badder and has more moves. If worse comes to worse, it also comes with a sword.

In theory I could put a dumb phone on the line and take my phone to Verizon, and pay less... Well not with Verizon but you get the point.

So what?
It doesn't relieve you of the obligation to pay for the phone. They still have your credit card as insurance.

Stop buying into policies that essentially say you are a thief ahead of time.

What do you mean "they still have your credit card as insurance"? It's not like they can bill that card automatically.

Please tell me you are kidding? Just in case you weren't...

Read the agreement you signed when you bought the phone.

They most certainly CAN bill your card automatically, you gave them written permission to do so.

That's the first time I've ever heard of that. Are you sure you're reading that correctly?

Posted via my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

Sigh. By activating a phone, or by purchasing a subsidized phone, or by signing up for service you have agreed to a contract, whether you paid attention to the terms or not. "Signing" no longer requires you to put pen to paper.

I'm appalled at how many Americans "sign" away their lives without the least bit of effort to understand what they've agreed to.

Ummm, trust me, I know everything that I place my (physical/digital) signature on. I've been using T-Mobile prepaid, for over a year, now. I know for a fact, they don't have a right to withdraw funds from my account, without my knowledge and authorization.

I agree, people should be more aware of what they're signing.

And, my previous post was meant as a joke, a little dry humor, if you will.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

I have not heard of this happening to anyone. They'd get a bill but not an automatic charge without permission.

Posted via Android Central App

This is what I've always thought and what has been my experience. Unless you specifically sign up for automatic payments, a company doesn't have the right to remove funds from your account, credit card or otherwise.

Posted via my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

Exactly what he said. They can bill you for something like this, you can agree to automatic billing, but they cannot charge you for something like that... And get away with it.

One call to the bank and the money is back in your account.

As far as the dumb phone, not only are you removing the data charge, you can drop your plan down to the absolute bottom rung. I think you can still get what I used to call kid plans with lime 100 minutes and 100 texts for 20$

My phone can beat up your phone. It's bigger, badder and has more moves. If worse comes to worse, it also comes with a sword.

They wouldn`t do it just like that, I had this issue before, the carrier will contact you first, if you don`t pay they`ll go to the collection dept.
I did pay them, but that`s what they do anyway.

Playing Devil's Adocate:

Upgraded my phone on Black friday Weekend. The phone was FREE at Best Buy (Galaxy S4). Wasn't even charged tax. Did not buy any accessories. So how are they going to charge my credit card when was wasn't provided?

Now, they could "bill" me the ETF. And I will pay it when/if it is owed.

I realize that most people do not read the terms of service when activating a phone at the time of purchase. Any most don't bother to read it later. But I can assure you that if my carrier processed a transaction on one of my cards, especially one not provided to obtain the device, most banks would side with their customer.

"In theory I could put a dumb phone on the line and take my phone to Verizon, and pay less..."

Then they should just make the data plan part of the contract. The point is that the ETF is the carrier's insurance against me leaving. There is no reason for them to lock the phone to keep me as a customer. Id mid way through the contract I want to get an new phone and continue to pay for the same monthly plan, why shouldnt I be able to unlock and give/sell/trade my old phone to someone to use on any carrier?

No, it is for you to fulfill your contract terms. Part of those terms are the phone.

The plan is really not part of it. You can change plans mid contract with no big deal, the anchor is the phone

My phone can beat up your phone. It's bigger, badder and has more moves. If worse comes to worse, it also comes with a sword.

ok sorry if i worded that questuon badly!but thanks for the answer!

posting while eating gummybears in your girlfriends bedroom

The rules state that they will unlock handsets for customers in good standing. If you pay the early termination fee, then you are in good standing.

Posted via Android Central App

For the question below this reply, the rules state that carriers will unlock pre-paid phones "no later than one year". Not after 1 year, before 1 year.

Posted via Android Central App

I imagine the carrier would probably lose money if a person bought a prepaid device and didn't use it on the carrier.

So with a pre-paid phone, you're not in a contract, but you basically are... Because your phone is locked to that network for a year.

I don't like that. If someone wants to unlock the phone right away, then the carrier should have a rate for that.

The whole point of prepaid is that you pay full price for the phone. there is no subsidy for them to lose money on. the "requirement" to have x amount of time on prepaid before they will unlock it is ridiculous. hell Verizon won't even let you buy a prepaid phone and use it on your contract line (att will in my experience). it should be unlocked when you buy it period!

Exactly! You Paid full price for the phone. You own it. That's BS

This is why "more informed" people are buying Moto X and Nexus like phones. This is why I bought an iPhone 5s unlocked from Apple. And a T-Mobile (unlocked) phone from the Moto maker store. No BS this way.

I would are on your 'more informed' statement.

Some do not have the cash on hand, others lime me bout a phone based on a certain set of criteria, and yeah, I didn't have 750$ to swallow at one shot

My phone can beat up your phone. It's bigger, badder and has more moves. If worse comes to worse, it also comes with a sword.

Even if I had it, it would be difficult for me to walk in a store and drop that amount of cash on a handheld device.

Posted via my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

Lol, I knew someone was going to say this. I just didn't wanna be that guy, lmao.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

Yeah i don't know what the hell the fascination swiftkey has for limes. Everytime I type like it types limes.

That right be the first time I actually ever typed the word...

My phone can beat up your phone. It's bigger, badder and has more moves. If worse comes to worse, it also comes with a sword.

Then those people (and I'm one of them) should buy a cheaper phone than $750 and go prepaid. Because if money is tight (and mine is), then why should those people hand over and extra $30-50/mo to Verizon/ATT/Sprint? GOOD unlocked phones can be bought in the $200-350 range. Less-desirable ones can be had for even cheaper.

Solid set of rules legitimizing the (abusive) status quo.

Why is it I can buy an $80,000 dollar car with a nothing but a signature, and drive it to Bolivia and sell it, but I need AT&Ts permission to unlock a $500 dollar device???

This agreement is a total Coup for the Carriers. They just got the Federal Government to bless their abusive policy. Instead of the FCC working for us, and banning phone locks altogether, they have perpetuated this policy forever.

Meanwhile Chile (and even some middle east countries) forbid the sale of locked cell phones.

But in the US you could buy it unlocked or at full-retail (then immediately request an unlock).

I agree with you. But, I'll take a well spelled-out policy over nothing at all.

Posted via my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

Yeah that is without hyperbole. Totally comparable statement.

And I am pretty sure, and correct me if I am wrong here, Dred Scott didn't last all that long.

Something about attitudes changing a little at a time...

My phone can beat up your phone. It's bigger, badder and has more moves. If worse comes to worse, it also comes with a sword.

Ha! That post reminds me of the Office Space quote, "The Nazis had pieces of flare they liked to make the Jews wear, too."

They can come and repossess the car with no interaction from you, plus the credit report.

Are they really going to bust into your house and pry the phone from your hands... Legally?

My phone can beat up your phone. It's bigger, badder and has more moves. If worse comes to worse, it also comes with a sword.

Lol you and me both... It would be ugly

My phone can beat up your phone. It's bigger, badder and has more moves. If worse comes to worse, it also comes with a sword.

Just buy a Nexus 5 from play store for 349.00 and its unlocked and usable on any carrier...

Posted via Android Central App

This policy isn't going to allow you to take a Sprint phone to Verizon and vice-versa, IMO.

Unless said Sprint phone also has Verizon's CDMA and LTE radio bands.

Posted via my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

all phones that are activated on verizons cdma network must be in verizons database and same with sprint. they have to unlock the phone but they do not have to let an unlocked phone on their network.

Yes if you bring you phone from Verizon to sprint and want to use their service, with a phone they already have, they are really going to deny you?

In other words they are going to turn a customer away?

My phone can beat up your phone. It's bigger, badder and has more moves. If worse comes to worse, it also comes with a sword.

Sprint is allowing the Nexus 5 (which just so happens to be unlocked) on their network. So, if a Verizon device had those bands, and was unlocked, I'm pretty sure Sprint would allow it onto their network.

And not to bash Sprint, but they need all of the customers they can get.

Verizon, on the other hand, still absolutely refuses to allow any unlocked device (hello, Nexus 7) onto their network.

Posted via my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

I had thought that they did at one point but am sure I am wrong.

Your right, sprint and tmo would bend over to get you to switch at this point. ATT would not complain either

My phone can beat up your phone. It's bigger, badder and has more moves. If worse comes to worse, it also comes with a sword.

You know you can't use it on any carrier, and yes I need my unlimited data on Verizon. Right now I'm at 29.5 GB of data with over a week to go in my cycle.

Maybe you need to stop downloading so much on your phone. WTF do you do on your phone anyways?

Courtesy of my Nexus 5

They might use their data connection all the time. My brother uses like 25 GB of data on tmo every month. Even though we have WiFi at the house, his data connection is faster and he chooses to use that over wifi

Posted via Android Central App

Good God...what are you doing with that thing? I don't think I use that much data on my home connection, even when downloading several....legitimate torrents......every month.

What a colossal waste of tax payers money. Carriers (and I'm speaking specifically about Verizon and AT&T here because that's where my experience is) already unlock your device if you are in good standing upon request and all Verizon smartphones since the iPhone 5 have shipped unlocked anyway. Most of the people who don't understand how to ask are not going to understand the radio frequency thing anyway. We're gonna see a boatload of customers trying to take Verizon phones to Sprint and vice versa and of course they won't work.

Posted via Android Central App on my daily driver, the Droid MAX

Not really sure where you're getting the "waste of tax payers money" from here.

And yes, as I note above, many carriers are already doing some of these things voluntarily. The good part about this is having a minimum set of rules that the biggest carriers, representing some ~315 million wireless lines, all agree to a process for unlocking phones.

The big ones here are 1) notifying customers proactively of when their phones can be unlocked, and 2) responding to unlock requests within 2 days and unlocking phones for free. Guranteed.

Sure the average person won't know about frequencies of networks or incompatibilities between carriers, but average people aren't yet worried about unlocking their phones either. This agreement between the CTIA and FCC is a big step towards the future, setting groundwork so that the knowledge about unlocking and the process is clear and available for all consumers on the biggest carriers.

If you are on tmo, just call customer service and tell them you are traveling outside of the country and ask for an unlock code. They sent me one within 24 hours and I still had 20 months left on my financing plan. Not sure if they are supposed to do that or not but the rep didn't question it at all.

I'm going to try this on ATT to unlock my HTC one. I have a nexus 5 now and I'm trying to sell the One.

Posted via Android Central App

The thing that pisses me off is the prepaid phones. they should be unlocked out the door. Verizon is going to put the moto g on prepaid and you will not be allowed to put it on your contract unless you run it on prepaid for 6 months. What is the point, they are not subsidizing it, do they test it to make sure it works on their network sure, add $10 to each phone to make up for it.

Prepaid subscribers have to wait a year? I wonder what the justification is for this. I, for one, purchased an AT&T S4 at full price and should be able to unlock it on the day I buy the phone at retail price. The new agreement does not reflect this option.

The problem is that phone manufacturers generally do not provide an unlocked model similar to the one sold by carriers. Case in point - Samsung Galaxy Note 3. AT&T's phone works, among other bands, in the 700 MHz band. The available unlocked LTE version does not work in the 700 MHz band. Why should that be the case? Why shouldn't I be able to purchase an unlocked model similar to the one sold by AT&T and, if I wanted, use it on AT&T's network as a prepaid subscriber? It seems like carriers want to have a lock (pun intended!) on the phones they sell so that customers who want to use their service (prepaid or postpaid) HAVE to buy the phone from them for full functionality.

As subsidies on the phones are phased out, carriers should not be able to dictate to customers where they buy their phones. Further, they should sell full-price-paying customers unlocked phones or provide unlock codes for them. And, finally, phone manufacturers should follow Apple's example (the iPhone 5s) and make phones that can work on multiple carriers' networks.

The agreement ratified between carriers and the FCC is, in some instances, worse that what carriers are currently doing. Why the parties regressed to a situation worse than the one that currently exists makes little sense.

When you buy a phone at full price and don't sign a contract with that carrier, you're instantly qualified to ask for a unlock code on that device (assume it is paid off in full right away) with these new agreements. Buying a phone full price off-contract =/= prepaid. (And I think there's some confusion around the prepaid points from the CTIA.)

To your other point, there's no reason why a manufacturer or carrier should be forced to make or sell a phone with certain bands. When a carrier partners with an OEM to make a phone, they can come to whatever agreements on the hardware thats in that phone that they please — and you can bet that that often means it will support precisely that carrier's frequencies and nothing more if they choose. And if that deal includes stipulation that the OEM can't also make an unlocked phone that supports the same bands as well, that's the OEMs choice. That's business for you — it may not be what you want, but that's kind of how it works.

Right now, we have a lot of frequency problems to manage. However, in the near future, with CDMA being abandoned and phones moving completely to LTE (with VoLTE for voice calls), and with LTE chipsets that support all bands, we will soon be buying "world phones" that will work everywhere, and phones will be able to be moved from one network to another.

This will happen in the USA first, because we are further along with LTE than any other large country, but LTE will eventually be the world standard. The individual frequencies will vary, sure, but with a radio that can handle all LTE frequencies, it simply won't be an issue. Also, without CDMA, Verizon and Sprint will have to become "open" networks like AT&T and T-Mobile, working with any LTE phone with the right radios.

They're gonna hate that, but it's inevitable. The sooner the carriers become "dumb pipes", the better for all of us.

Sounds nice, but there are still loopholes, like this one "individual owners of eligible devices". The carrier determines what an eligible device, so, a device that is exclusive to a carrier does not have to be unlocked. AT&T did this with Lumia 920s bought outright, and I'm sure they do it with the 1020.

The law should drop the "eligible devices" clause to include all devices the carrier has.

So you're saying right now if I bought a 1020 full-price from AT&T, they would deny me from unlocking it through them?

Posted via Android Central App

Yeah, from what I've heard, AT&T's exclusive devices have to be on a qualifying plan, with the customer remaining in good-standing for a period no less than six months, before a device is eligible for unlocking.

Posted via my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

6 months is less than the two year maximum this law would implement. It still sucks but a better solution is already in place.

More than likely, you're right. We'll see. I'm sure, this isn't the last time we'll be discussing this.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

Well, this is a wash. I have a Moto X I bought from Motorola directly. AT&T will not unlock my phone. Since I am not a customer, and the phone was bought from Moto, it's a wash.

ehhh ill just spend my 10 bucks to get an unlock code, screw the carrier and the FCC CTIA... they mean nothing to me

Yeah, that region-lock crap was never a good idea, to begin with.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

Wouldn't it be easier if instead of sending a "you are eligible to unlock your phone now!" message they just sent a "your phone is out of contract, here is the unlock code" message?

Or maybe just not lock it at all because there already is ETFs.

This is just the carriers facing up to reality and getting the best deal they could. Carrier mobility in the US really wasn't possible even last year with CDMA and most UTMS phones not supporting T-Mobile that weren't designed for it. However, you're starting to see competition with AT&T and T-Mobile now that they're on an equal footing as far as phones and migrating back and forth between the two is possible. LTE and phones like iPhone 5S/5C which supports up to 13 LTE bands change everything. 2 years from now when you start seeing LTE only plans from the CDMA carriers, you could take you phone and use it on any US carrier. They had to get out in front of this. It was either strike a deal or have the market dictate terms in a couple years and those terms wouldn't have likely been good for the carriers.

When will they stop locking the boot loader?
It's like buying a PC and only being able to run Windows.
It's my hardware after I have paid for it.