Regional U.S. Carriers Back Efforts to Ease Mobile Phone Unlocking in Bid to Draw iPhone Users

iphone_5_black_whiteBloomberg reports that regional and rural carriers in the United States are banding together to back legislative efforts to ease the unlocking of mobile phones. Unsurprisingly, the smaller carriers see unlocking as a key way to attract new customers and gain access to the most popular handsets such as the iPhone.

“Smaller carriers have a very difficult time getting access to smartphones and handsets,” said Steven Berry, president of the Competitive Carriers Association, which represents such companies as U.S. Cellular Corp. (USM) and Bluegrass Cellular. “The unlocking is one way the consumer can make the decision that I can try someone else who has better coverage in the area where I live or play.”

Unauthorized unlocking of newly purchased mobile phones became illegal in the U.S. as of late January, but the White House has backed an effort to address the issue and Congress has begun putting forward bills that would clear the way for broader unlocking abilities.

AT&T has made clear that the ruling against unauthorized unlocking has very little impact on its customers, as the carrier's current policy is to unlock any device that is no longer under contract and for which the customer's account has been active for at least 60 days and carries no balance due. Current efforts, however, seek to loosen unlocking restrictions more uniformly across carriers.

Apple has made significant strides in extending iPhone availability to smaller U.S. carriers over the past several years, with 18 carriers now offering the device. Many more are undoubtedly interested in joining that group, and making it easier for customers to bring their out-of-contract iPhones to new carriers would likely help these carriers bring more of these customers onboard.

Top Rated Comments

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100 months ago
When I pick up a phone that is locked, it comes at a discounted rate. I am explained that the phone company gives me a two year loan and that over the course of my two year contract, I pay back that loan. After those two years are up, does my bill go down because I am done paying off the loan, which is the phone, and left only paying for service?

No.

It doesn't matter if you have a subsidized phone or an unlocked phone, you still pay the same bill.

Telecommunications, including the cable industry, absolutely suck.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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100 months ago
Or ignore the law and get your phone unlocked for under $5......
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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100 months ago
I think it should be illegal for carriers to lock phones at all. Once they have you locked into a contract that should be good enough, I have agreed to pay you your money to pay off the subsidy, why should I have to agree to anything beyond that such as not using it on another carrier if I chose to.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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100 months ago
How about leave our iphones unlocked so we can use other country SIMs while visiting?

being locked into At&t's international plan is $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ :(
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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100 months ago
Make Unlock mandatory from the get go

since we are already signed the contract and have to pay ETF of anywhere around $350.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
100 months ago
does AT&T want to be Globalization friendly?

Dear AT&T,

1) Learn from Verizon, I'm legally obligated to pay you for 2 years, good. Who cares if I'm using another carrier's SIM? I'm going to do that when I'm traveling INTERNATIONALLY, not in the USA, where I'm already paying you, and going to use your LTE network. (And if someone did use T-mo for example, wouldn't you have less stress on your network?)

2) If you're concerned that (subsidized price + ETF) < cost of iPhone, consider raising ETF so that (subsidized + ETF*) = cost of iPhone or heaven forbid = a month more of contract. That's not the biggest problem! My reasoning is back to point number 1.

3) Good job on keeping a better option on plans than Verizon with the single-line data options.

Loyal Customer since (AT&T Wirless pre-Cingular acquisition)
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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