Unlocking your phone will now be possible thanks to official deal between U.S. carriers and FCC


In the past few hours, the FCC and CTIA finally agreed a deal to allow consumers from the five major U.S. networks to unlock their devices. It’s been one of the big sticking points of the carrier/smartphone industry for sometime and is yet another step in the right direction of giving control back to the consumers and not the carrier. This is just weeks after the FCC turned the screw to get action.

“CTIA is pleased to announce today that AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless have committed to adopt the attached set of voluntary industry principles for the consumer unlocking of mobile wireless phones and tablets. CTIA and these companies share the goal of ensuring that America’s wireless consumers continue to benefit from the world-leading range of competitive devices and offerings they currently enjoy, and believe that these voluntary principles will enhance these consumer benefits.” 

The PDF report available on CTIA’s page is clear to point out that just because the device is unlocked doesn’t mean that it’ll work properly on every other carrier. This is something consumers need to be made aware of. There are various handsets on T-Mobile that won’t be the same models as those on sale at Verizon or Sprint. And the same with AT&T and others.

As part of the agreement, each carrier will post on its website a “clear, concise, and readily accessible policy on postpaid and prepaid mobile wireless device unlocking.

In terms of consumer rights, carriers will have to unlock devices requested by customers. With postpaid, that’ll come after a plan has ended, a finance plan has been paid, the device has been owned long enough or an early termination fee has been paid. With prepaid devices, carriers will be required to unlock a device within a year after original activation, “consistent with reasonable time, payment or usage requirements.” 

What’s particularly great is the turnaround time. Unlocking must be done within two business days of request, ensuring that devices are not left locked for weeks without action. That is unless there’s good reason for delay, or rejection of the request.

Carriers have three months to start getting this going, and 12 months to implement it entirely.

UPDATE – 7pm Eastern

We got an official statement from Tom Sugrue, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, T-Mobile US

 “T-Mobile supports the voluntary agreement reached with the FCC as an important step in mobile device unlocking.  Clear, fair and timely unlocking policies that enable consumer choice are good for competition.  There is additional progress to be made on unlocking, such as the support of a robust secondary market in mobile devices, and we will continue working with the FCC to enhance the new policies announced today.”


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  • It’s only right and it’s about damn time.

    • guest

      I don’t get you! You can call tmo after 40 days and say I am going out of country and need my phone unlocked. Bam pone unlocked next day!

      • 21stNow

        I shouldn’t have to lie to get an unlock code.

        • HangmanSwingset

          I called and said I just wanted my iPhone 5 unlocked, and they did it without question.

  • $15454173

    “Carriers have three months to start getting this going, and 12 months to implement it entirely.”

  • MacRat

    T-Mobile: “Unable to obtain the unlock code from manufacturer.”

  • tech916

    I am still waiting on the unlock code for my garminfone …..

    • guest

      lol you bought the garminfone :*(

      • superg05

        lmao where sorry but really lol…

  • Paul

    Thanks to XDA I was able to unlock my S4, Note 2, and my Note 3.

    Glad to hear this. I buy the phone, paid in full, it should be unlocked. Of course, the flood of unlocked phones on the market change the resale value of an unlocked phone.

  • kevev

    What about bootloader unlocks? I paid full price for my Xperia Z and T-Mobile is the only carrier who does not allow unlocking bootloader. :(

    • dkbnyc

      T-Mobile or Sony? My bootloader is unlocked on my T-Mobile Note 3.

  • Willie D

    A year for prepaid is a little too long. I’d say 90-180 days is sufficient. With prepaid plans matching the cost of postpaid plans, there is no need to require such a long term commitment to the device being not only active but forced to wait this long. This is a step backward than current carrier guidelines at TMobile which state 40 days and at least one top up.

    Sell the devices immediately unlockable for those who pay full price, offer unlock after 1 year for those with good payment on equipment finance options and after 3-6 months on prepaid including minimum top up unless that top up has been paid 3-6 months upfront then unlock immediately.

    • guest

      think about the people that get pay as you go service and just refill $10

    • TechHog

      You misread it. It says within a year, meaning that no carrier is allowed to make a policy that forces you to wait more than a year

    • 21stNow

      Since most, if not all, prepaid customers pay full price for their devices it is redundant to have separate requirements for those who pay full price and prepaid customers.

  • JaswinderSinghJammu

    Why not make all devices like Nexus 5? No need to call anyone for anything

    • Cam Bunton

      I agree. I think we need to get to a point where carriers no longer have any control over the handsets. We have a retailer in the UK that only sells unlocked phones on prepaid and contract. So much better that way. Makes swapping SIMs in between devices much more convenient.

      • macman37

        The way the carriers in your area handle this issue is great; but it would be much more convenient if the mobile carriers across the globe were not so egotistical when it comes to the Apple’s idea of an embedded SIM that they were thinking of doing with the iPhone several years ago. Are most carriers reconsidering on this idea?

      • BlackJu

        You’re talking about going against the carriers, who have built a system of exclusives because it’s the only thing they can do to differentiate their offering. It is completely anti-consumer and drives a wedge between the devices I want and the service I am willing to pay for. God forbid carriers are forced to compete on coverage, price, and customer service alone. T-Mobile is making the right moves for consumers, but other carriers won’t move to that model until they are forced to by bleeding customers or gov’t intervention.
        Also, the carriers always have to do some tweaking because of the nature of cellular technology in America. It a lot less unified than the UK.

  • longtimeCustomer

    Is there any advantage to unlocking a phone other than moving to another carrier?

    • Nick

      As I see it, nope.

    • descendency

      Selling your used phone to someone on another carrier.

    • philyew

      Using another carrier temporarily when traveling overseas.

      The recent overseas roaming service that TM added somewhat reduces this need, but data access through that is limited to 2G, I believe.

      • tirtawn

        Yes, its limited to 2G, but you could use it for whatsapp. It works great. I was outside the country for 3 weeks and yes, I checked my bill. Yeap its free. I use it for a couple of phone calls. In 3 weeks, I only need to pay extra $2++ (voice call). Not bad at all.

        • philyew

          Thanks for the confirmation. Unfortunately, there are a couple of things that I need to use when traveling for work that need more bandwidth, but I’m sure a lot of people would be happy with the roaming option.

        • LC

          If you need additional data at faster speeds while you’re traveling internationally, you can always purchase a data pass that’s good for a certain amount of time and 4g data, whichever comes first. My mom used this option while she was in Tokyo. She paid $25 for a week or 300mb of 4g and it was really great because you could tell it when to kick in because we wanted to buy it in advance. Pretty handy and everything worked like a charm.

        • philyew

          That’s good to know, thanks. I normally spend the equivalent of $50 getting unlimited talk & text with 1GB of 4G, which works for me when my trips last over a week, but that data pass would be ideal for a shorter visit.

    • Steve

      Not really….

    • 21stNow

      It enhances resale value, if this is a concern for you.

  • Aaron H

    so does this mean that I will soon be able to uninstall all the bloatware on my “One S” from tmo?

    • Guest


    • philyew

      No, that stuff is protected by locking out root access on the phone’s file system. The deal with the FCC covers network locking phones to only one carrier.

    • krazytrixxxsta

      That a whole different process that have nothing to do with this. For you to uninstall bloatware from your phone you have to unlock the bootloader then root your phone.

  • The mobile industry will go through radical changes over the next 5 years. The days of $400 dollar smart phones will go the way of the $500 dollar home video recorder with the cord remote.

    • Flyincloud

      It needs too…

    • john

      $400 smartphone? Compared to the $600-$750 that most flagship phones cost, $400 is a steel. Less than $400 would be awesome, but let’s get to $400 first.

      • $15454173

        Well, we just need to find out where raymond is buying those at $400 :)

  • sushimane

    The nexus that’s being sold at T-Mobile is that natural unlocked? I know stupid question but just wondering

    • philyew

      Not so stupid actually. When I got my Nexus 5 in a TM store recently, I was told it is network locked, so I was about to tell you that. However, I decided to check it out using a Vodafone SIM from the UK and I was able to register on both the TM and AT&T networks. That means, of course, that it can’t be network locked after all.

      • sushimane


    • 21stNow

      GSM Nexus devices have always been unlocked in the past, no matter where it was sold.

  • When I got the unlock code for my 5s and Note 3, it came within 2 days to my email. No questions asked, they just did it. I had only had both for about 3 weeks.

    • lmao_

      iphones dont use unlock codes, only done by itunes.

      • I know, point is they sent it to me quickly on both phones.

  • philyew

    I just skimmed through the current TM unlocking policy, and I can’t see anywhere, other than their “there may be exceptions” clause, where they would need to change anything in order to meet these requirements.

    I guess there is a danger that this agreement might actually justify a worsening of some current conditions. I doubt that would jibe with their Uncarrier image, but it’s a risk.

  • Darkbotic

    “With prepaid devices, carriers will be required to unlock a device within a year after original activation.”

    What!? Why so long?

    • 21stNow

      I know. A year is ridiculous considering that most (all?) prepaid phones are purchased at the full price.

      • Darkbotic

        Exactly! Why would a customer have to wait so long if they paid full retail price for the phone?

  • Flyincloud

    How about unlock your coverage….

  • Dennis Gwapo

    All phones should be unlocked whether prepaid or on contract!! That’s it!!!

    • nycplayboy78


  • Tmo Fan

    Tmobile’s current policy on pre-paid its easier than this: just two months is enough!
    But it takes up to two weeks

  • Tmo666

    40 days for current Tmobile unlocks. Tmo employee here.

  • Prakash.TV

    “In the past few hours, the FCC and CTIA finally agreed a deal to allow consumers from the five major U.S. networks to unlock their devices.”

    When in December 2013 did the US have FIVE major carriers????