CTIA and FCC Pen Cellphone Unlocking Principles, Top U.S. Carriers On Board

After months of contentious debate, the CTIA and FCC have come to an agreement on cellphone unlocking policies in the United States. The CTIA has issued six principles regarding cellphone unlocking, which will be included in CTIA’s Consumer Code for Wireless Service, and has been adopted my the nation’s five larger carriers, Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, U.S. Cellular and Verizon.

“It is important that consumers know that unlocking devices may not necessarily mean full interoperability since devices that work on one provider’s network may not be technologically compatible with another wireless provider’s network. Additionally, unlocking a device may enable some functionality of the device but not all (e.g., an unlocked device may support voice services but not data services when activated on a different network). – Steve Largent

The new guidelines bring us closer to having an easier time unlocking our mobile devices, which can currently be accomplished manually, as well as through some carriers. For instance, AT&T currently offers the ability to unlock a phone by competing a request form and meeting certain eligibility requirements, which are in the most part congruent with CTIA’s new standards.

According to the new guidelines, mobile carriers are required to adopt at least three of the guidelines listed below within the next three months, and the remainder of the guidelines in twelve months time.  CTIA’s new guidelines are as follows:

  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

Like a nagging parent, the CTIA reminds us that even though a device may be unlocked, it does not guarantee network interoperability. All carriers operate on different frequencies and use varying protocols for their data networks, meaning that some devices just won’t work on certain carriers even with the device unlocked. All unlocking does is disable the software that carriers stick on their devices to ensure that the device can only be used on their network.

Via: CTIA , 2

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