New carrier phone unlock regulation active from today

Unlock-cell-phone

Although the agreement made between carriers and the FCC was virtually finalized in 2013, carriers from today can’t say no to customer requests to unlock their phones. Providing they are no longer under contract, or have any installments to pay. Once unlocked, you’re free to use your handset on which ever compatible carrier your heart desires.

Up until now, carriers only had to meet three of six criteria set out in the agreement. Those were actioned on May 11th, last year.

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 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.

The deadline to comply with every aspect of the agreement passed today, which means that not only do carriers have to unlock your phone(s) on request, they also have to publish policies on their websites. You can find T-Mobile’s here. Getting one from T-Mo requires that you contact the carrier’s customer service department.

It’s been an interesting development. First off, unlocking your phone was seen as a breach of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Then, it became legal (again). And now, carrier’s have to unlock your phone if you ask. They can’t turn you down.

T-Mobile provides device unlock codes free of charge within two business days providing your device meets the following criteria:

Device eligibility is determined as follows:

  • The device must be a T-Mobile device.
  • The device must not be reported as lost, stolen or blocked to T-Mobile.
  • The account associated with the device must be in good standing.
  • You have requested no more than 2 mobile device unlock codes per line of service in the last 12 months.
  • The device must satisfy all the Postpaid or Pay in Advance (Prepaid) Unlocking terms outlined below.
  • You may need a non-T-Mobile and non-MetroPCS SIM card to insert in the phone.

Unlock eligibility for monthly phones, tablets and mobile internet devices

  • The device must have been active on the T-Mobile network for at least 40 days on the requesting line.
  • If the device is financed using T-Mobile’s Equipment Installment Plan (EIP), all payments must be satisfied and the device must be paid in full.
  • If the device is on an account that is under a service contract term, at least 18 consecutive monthly payments must have been made or the account has migrated to Simple Choice no contract rate plan.
  • If the device is associated with a canceled account, the account balance must be zero, including all pending charges
  • T-Mobile may request proof of purchase or additional information in its discretion and certain other exceptions may apply.

Unlock eligibility for pay in advance (prepaid) phones, tablets and mobile internet devices

  • The device has been active on the T-Mobile network for more than 1 year on the requesting line.
  • If the device has been active for less than 1 year on the requesting line, the Pay in Advance account associated with the device must have had more than $25 in refills for basic phones or $100 in refills for smartphones or tablet since device first use date.
  • The account must not be canceled and in good standing.
  • T-Mobile may request proof of purchase or additional information in its discretion and certain other exceptions may apply.

Sources: ArsTechnica, T-Mobile

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  • sosarozay300

    wow the 2 unlocks per year limit stays?????

    • Mike

      I know I thought it would be unlimited as long as the phone is paid off or you completed the contract tem

      • Kogashuko

        Where is the 2 a year limit in the federal law?

        • eAbyss

          He didn’t say there was but you do have to finish or buy out your contract.

          “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 applicable early termination fee.”

        • Kogashuko

          Tmobile seems to think there is a 2 per year limit in there somewhere.

        • Kogashuko

          http://www.ctia.org/policy-initiatives/voluntary-guidelines/consumer-code-for-wireless-service
          Listed are the 6 criteria. Doing 2 phones a year only isnt listed so technically Tmobile isnt complaint if that is still in their policy.

        • Mike Palomba

          I spoke to a T-Mobile rep who said that this wasn’t true and I can unlock more than 2 per year provided I meet all the requirements.

        • Mike

          don’t know but it’s listed in T-Mobile policy for unlocking

        • Logan C.

          They bend that rule constantly, its put there to discourage people from buying 9 iPhones on launch day, unlocking them, and selling them overseas at a huge profit, mostly.

        • monkeybutts

          They could just buy the Verizon version….

    • eAbyss

      Doubt it. As I understand it they’ll have to as long as it’s paid off.

      • sosarozay300

        i hope so because i upgrade my phones every 6 months and i need to unlock the previous phone to maximize profits when i sell it to buy the new one

        • Joe

          Ya and if it’s true I would argue with them till they unlock it.

    • Mike Palomba

      I spoke to a T-Mobile rep who said that this wasn’t true and I can unlock more than 2 per year provided I meet all the requirements

  • KingCobra

    So basically this only applies to Sprint and the other regional CDMA carriers as AT&T and T-Mobile have been unlocking phones out of contract or paid off for a while now and Verizon phones are all unlocked.

    • Spanky

      I was under the impression that the government mandated all Verizon LTE-enabled phones to be unlocked as a condition of using the 700 mHz spectrum.

    • Orlando Duran

      Verizon phones are not all unlocked.

      • monkeybutts

        All Verizon LTE phones are unlocked, they have very few 3G phones.

  • TMUS has some ridiculously restrictive policies to unlock phones. A couple of years ago I collected a few phones from friends to donate and I unlocked five ATT phones over the phone without any question asked, even though I’ve never been a customer. Then, I couldn’t unlock even two of my old TMUS phones because they hadn’t been used in a while. The only reasonable condition for a phone to be locked is if it’s not yet owned outright by the customer. Otherwise, the carrier is just being a asshat – I’m looking at you, TMUS.

    • Hate dumb people

      So your blaming tmobile for something they did years ago? Tmobile has made some ridiculious uncarrier moves to make ungrateful customers happy which is costing billions and not making the company profits. You are what is wrong with the cell phone industry.

    • Logan C.

      really because I walked into an ATT store, bought a phone outright, and they refused to unlock it until I borrowed someone else’s SIM and associated it with an account. Luckily I haven’t converted all of my friends/family to TMUS yet or I’d be out $600

    • Stefan Naumowicz

      At&t has put significant restrictions on their device unlocking policy since then. Check out att.com/deviceunlock.

  • Nexus_For_Life

    Cam , I thought this law has passed and signed by the president a while back in the summer of 2014, Do you know if Sprint is included with this Unlocking phones’? My sister had an iPhone 4s from Sprint and was also service from them and her contract has completed a while back but back in August 2014 she canceled the service on that iPhone 4s line and gave the phone to my daughter to use on T-Mobile network but we couldn’t make it activated from either one of the carrier sprint and T-Mobile because T-Mobile support said that it has to be unlock first by sprint but when i called spring and spoke to multiple support from different department they all said to me that Sprint Do Not Unlock their phones after the line has been canceled. Do you know how I can Unlock this iPhone 4s from Sprint so that my daughter can use it on T-Mobile network… Any help is appreciated, thanks.

    • VTD

      Here is the link to the Sprint policy: http://www.sprint.com/legal/unlocking_policy.html It looks like you should be able to get your phone unlocked. As long as her account is paid with them, I would suggest your sister try calling them again.

    • Cole Walter Tague

      You don’t unlock Sprint phones or any other CDMA. They can be flashed to work on anther cdma

      • Bud

        T-Mobile iPhone works on Verizon. Everything works lte voice mms.

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=r_ispNVHmQY

      • Mike Palomba

        Thats not true. Majority of sprints phones are GSM ready now. Weather or not they will DOMESTIC unlock them is another story but if you can get them to unlock it it will work with any GSM carrier.

  • kgraham182

    How do phones off Ebay work with this? Thanks

    • kgraham182

      Talked to Customer Service, you must have an active account in which the phone is associated with to request an unlock code. I’m on Metro with a T-Mobile branded Lumia 925, I guess I’ll never get this phone unlocked.

      • Orlando Duran

        The tmobile phone has to be unlocked to use a metro pcs sim card. I call bullshit

        • kgraham182

          The phone works perfectly on MetroPCS, I was just wondering if T-Mobile could unlock it. Unlock codes for Lumias are extremely expensive compare to android phones.

        • Aaron Davis

          If you go to a t-mobile store and prove that you originally bought the phone from t-mobile (they can probably just look it up) they might be willing to unlock it for you (assuming you don’t owe them money).

        • monkeybutts

          MetroPCS can use most T-mobile locked phones just fine, the reverse is where trouble occurs.

    • Csr

      TMobile will not unlock phones that aren’t purchased from TMobile.

      • kgraham182

        It’s cool. I would of bought a Lumia phone from Metro if they sold anything better than a 520

      • blady11

        One carrier cannot unlock phone locked by another carrier.

  • eAbyss

    Phones should never be carrier locked in the first place. All it does is reduces competition.

    • Agreed.

    • Cole Walter Tague

      I prefer unlocked phones. RIP Google play edition

    • Kogashuko

      Unfortunately this doesn’t prevent Verizon from declining to activate the meid it knows to belong to a sprint phone.

      • monkeybutts

        Known to belong to any other phone company. They won’t activate a T-mobile or AT&T iPhone 6/6+ for you either even though you can pop in a Verizon SIM and it will work 100%

    • Stefan Naumowicz

      Carrier locking allows the company to sell us phones with a subsidy (yes, no contract phones are subsidized) by eliminating the risk of the people buying their phones with no intention of using their service

  • blady11

    This is non news. Phones under contract or installment plan are still locked. Call me when ALL phones are being unlocked.

    • Logan C.

      Phones under contract or installment plan don’t belong to you. Any phone YOU own can now be unlocked. If its still T-Mobile’s phone they can do whatever they damn well please with it

      • blady11

        It is my phone. I will get hit with fees and contract termination penalties if I go to another carrier before the contract is over with. Whats wrong with unlocking the phones. for customers with good credit and long history of payment on time? I am annoyed because I travel outside the U.S. on occasion and can’t just swap sims when I am overseas. If the roaming fees were reasonable I would use my current carrier overseas.

        • Logan C.

          You know T-Mobile at least will vacation unlock your device if you ask, right?

        • blady11

          I did not know that. Wish ATT did that.

        • Spanky

          I use an iPhone 6 on AT&T’s Next plan. I am only about 5 payments into it. I sent them an unlock request a couple of weeks ago and they granted it within 5 days. There is a whole thread on MacRumors discussing this and the success rate has been very high. Of course, YMMV.

        • Mr Paul

          AT&T is both not on the level on Verizon and not as evil as everyone makes them out to be. I’m sick of hearing that crap. These are all large corporations and you can never know if you’ll luck out or not.

          Every time non-AT&T users whine about how we won’t get something or will get screwed just like Verizon, I just roll my eyes.

          Like T-Mobile, AT&T grants exceptions all the time. I’ve heard far more success stories of people easily getting their bills credited (e.g. for going over data once or sometimes more than once, especially for loyal customers), phones unlocked, and mistakes regarding unlimited plans getting changed reverted back to their unlimited plans without argument, than the other way around. Of course, I also say this with the discrepancy that one’s mileage always may vary.

        • Eric Stengrevics

          You also realize that you now get free international data and texting, right?? And call rates are very cheap.

        • blady11

          Tmo yes. Not ATT (which I have contract with).

        • Mike

          Some carriers will unlock for international travel– Sprint comes to mind.

        • Mr Paul

          Sprint still region locked phones to not work on say any other carrier in the US, however. I believe they’ll no longer do this now.

        • Chris

          T-Mobile will also unlock for international travel. I recently did a 5 week business trip in Europe and a call to customer service got me an unlock code for a phone that was still under installment.

          I think it all depends on type of account, account history, number of lines etc. Ultimately it is up to the carrier if they will provide unlock codes, but at least for me, T-Mobile was easy to get unlock for international travel.

        • mahermusic

          No, it’s NOT your phone…until you pay for it. Just like financing a car… the bank owns your car until you make that last payment. One way to get around this is to pay full price for your phone up front. Then, it will be yours when you step outside the store.

        • blady11

          Not true. The phone gets subsidized on the premise of the long term contract. When I finance the car, there is a lien on the title an the car will get repo’d if I stop paying. There is no lien on the phone and no repo. There will be a fat bill if I stop paying my monthly bill and breach my wireless contract. The wireless company has no legal right to my phone. They have the right to seek damages for the breach of wireless contact. Locking the phone is just additional “incentive” to make monthly payment.

        • mahermusic

          Incorrect…you forgot, “and your phone gets shut off and turned into a BRICK”. There… there’s your REPO. It’s not yours until your pay it OFF IN FULL.

        • blady11

          “The phone gets shut of anf turned into BRICK” What??? No it isn’t. The phone can still be used on the network it’s locked into.

        • mahermusic

          Can? Sure. Will they let you if you stop paying for a subsidized phone that you are refusing to pay off? Nope.

      • Spanky

        Can you point out the exact section of the contract/installment agreement where it states that phones under contracts/installment agreements do not belong to the users?

      • Edward G

        Financing a phone has absolutely nothing to do with legal ownership. The phone belongs to the person who purchased it. There is no lienholder on phone finance purchases.

    • Bud

      My phone is under installment and T-Mobile unlocked it for me. After 40 days of consecutive service T-Mobile will unlock your phone.

    • bubba

      I know this is old but not true for all carriers. We have a Verizon branded iPhone 4s still under contract and it was unlocked automatically in early Feb. No request needed or notice given. Tested with a T-Mobile SIM and it worked without a hitch.

  • Great

  • Analog Spirit

    Excellent news. I only buy unlocked phones so I’m not really affected by this, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

  • monkeybutts

    $100 in refills to unlock prepaid phones? not bad.

  • aqw

    My wife and I both have insane schedules and we were just finding less and less time to keep track of our daughter’s online activities. After seeing that Dateline To Catch a Predator show, we decided it was time to take action and installed your parental monitoring software on our daughter’s phone.

    • sorandkairi

      lol what…lol

    • KayGee

      lol seriously…what?