All 5 major US mobile carriers have agreed this Thursday to make it easier for its consumers to unlock their mobile phones for use in competing networks. This decision comes after pressure from the U.S. Congress, Federal Communications Commission, and concerned consumer groups.
AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular have signed an agreement that allows consumers to unlock their phones and other mobile devices once their contracts ends with the original carrier.
As part of the agreement the carriers will post on their respective websites clear, concise, and readily information regarding its policy on prepaid and postpaid wireless device unlocking. Carriers will also have to notify its subscribers once the availed devices are already eligible for unlocking, or will have to automatically unlock the said devices remotely. Personnel who are going to be deployed abroad can have their devices unlocked as long as they are in good standing and that they provide proof of their deployment papers. Carriers can deny unlocking a device if they believe the request is fraudulent or the device is stolen.
This agreement comes after almost a year after more than 114,000 people petitioned the White House to stand up against the decision to make phone unlocking illegal.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said on Thursday that “Today was an important day for consumer choice. Today’s commitment by wireless providers will provide consumers with more information about when and how to move their devices from one compatible network to another, should they decide to do so.”
CTIA says that this agreement will slowly be rolling out with three of the six principles to be implemented first. There’s still no announcement as to which three are to be chosen. Full implementation of the agreement will commence within 12 months.
This agreement between the CTIA and the FCC does not fully resolve the unlocking issue. Consumers will still not be able to download a program to unlock their devices on their own. Developers who make such unlocking programs face a fine of $500,000 and 5 years in jail.