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Summary:

It’s official: Five U.S. carriers have agreed to six new voluntary policies that will assist consumers in phone unlocks. Half of the new procedures take place within 90 days while the other half will follow over the next year.

Earlier today it was reported that the FCC would have details on new phone unlocking policies in the U.S. and those details surfaced on Thursday afternoon. Steve Largent, President and CTO of the CTIA, transmitted a letter to the FCC(PDF) explaining the voluntary procedures that carriers will take. The included network operators are AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular.

Here are the half-dozen steps to assist with consumer unlocking per Largent’s letter (thanks to Sina Khanifar for the document link):

“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.”

Largent says that carriers can still decline an unlock request if they believe the request is fraudulent or for a stolen handset. The carriers expect to implement half of the standards — although it’s not clear which those are — within three months and the remaining standards within a year.

  1. If operators only stopped selling locked handsets to begin with, they wouldn’t have to deal with all our requests to unlock handsets in the first place.

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  2. AT&T is already doing most of these things… https://www.att.com/deviceunlock/client/en_US/termsAndCondition

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  3. So this ruling does NOTHING for me, if I read it properly. Example, I purchased an AT&T prepaid phone from Wally World for $80 dollars. Full price, but I did not activate the sim card that came with the phone. I am on a MVNO that uses AT&T bands, so the phone works with my sim card.

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    1. To be clear, I would not be paying AT&T any monthly fees for any amount of time, yet alone a year.

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  4. i wish they had specific policies to address the secondary/used marketplace. i have worked at cell phone store for many years and can tell you that it is quite rare that someone want to unlock they where the original owner of. the really huge market for phone unlocking is for unlocking phones purchased second hand from pawn shop, ebay, craigslist, etc. i wish the carriers would offer a service specifically aimed at shops wanting to help customers bringing in former contract handsets wanting to either use overseas or on prepaid MVNOs. this service should allow easy look up of unlock eligibility or future date when handset will become eligible. if already eligible the service could offer the unlock code, or in the case of apple products add the device to the unlock whitelist to automatically unlock when connected to itunes.

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  5. With regard to at least Verizon, can anyone verify if its true they currently do not lock any of the 4G capable smartphones used on their network (regardless of post paid, pre-paid, subsidized, non-subsidized handset etc.)?

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