In what is good news for US mobile customers, five of the country’s leading mobile service providers have agreed to put a system in place which will allow customers to unlock their mobile devices. The CTIA, an international organization which represents the wireless communications industry, and the five companies – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless will look to implement three of the six principles outlined in the document within three months. They will strive to implement the remaining within 12 months.
Below is a reproduction of these principles -
- Disclosure. Each carrier will post on its website its clear, concise, and readily accessible policy on postpaid and prepaid mobile wireless device unlocking.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Though positive news for the consumers, the announcement does carry few negatives too. One, as of now only five companies have agreed to proceed with device unlocking. However, with the big companies participating, we may soon see other carriers joining too. Two, implementation of these principles may take up to a year. One may see different time lines for implementation by different carriers. And finally, prepaid customers may have to wait for a year to unlock their devices.