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Carriers Agree to FCC's Voluntary Cell Unlocking Guidelines
by Karl Bode 02:39PM Thursday Dec 12 2013 Tipped by IPPlanMan See Profile
In late January, unlocking your cellphone technically became illegal after the Librarian of Congress removed it from the DMCA exception list. It technically remains legal for you to jailbreak your phone, but you can't unlock it without carrier permission. The absurdity of that concept resulted in a White House website petition, in turn resulting in the White House (via the NTIA) nudging the FCC to create new Part 20 rules making unlocking legal once again.

Instead, last month FCC boss Tom Wheeler sent a letter to the wireless industry (pdf) urging them to move more quickly to adopt voluntary guidelines requiring they make unlocking requirements clear, allow auto-unlocking after contracts expire, grant unlock approvals or denials in just a few days, and automatically inform users when they're able to unlock their devices.

Carriers balked solely at that last one, likely because they felt it advertised unlocking to users who otherwise wouldn't have known about the option. Carriers now appear to have changed their mind on that front, with Reuters reporting they have agreed to all of the proposed FCC rules, which aren't expected to be officially released until later today:
quote:
Industry sources have said the agreement would ensure that providers notify customers about the eligibility of their phones for unlocking - by text message, for example - and could also cover some pre-paid phones. The deal would also require carriers to process or deny unlocking requests within two business days, according to FCC's earlier guidance.
Keep in mind these are voluntary rules with no real penalty for ignoring them, and it's a far cry from hard rules, or requiring that carriers sell unlocked devices to begin with. Still it may be a helpful kick in the posterior to those wireless operators who've been particularly resistant to consumer-friendly unlocking policies (Sprint comes to mind first and foremost).

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SpottedCat

join:2004-06-27
Miami, FL

Sprint?

I wonder if this means Sprint might actually start unlocking their phones?

They're pretty much the last holdout. They won't unlock phones for domestic use AT ALL. All the other carriers will once out of contract.

lineofsight

join:2003-01-03
East Saint Louis, IL

Re: Sprint?

For domestic use, what good does it do to have an unlocked Sprint phone? I am just wondering.

JimThePCGuy
Formerly known as schja01.
Premium,MVM
join:2000-04-27
Morton Grove, IL

Re: Sprint?

Since the CDMA iPhone 5S/5C are universal phones if they were unlocked they could run on any domestic carrier be they CDMA or GSM. I think.

lineofsight

join:2003-01-03
East Saint Louis, IL

Re: Sprint?

OK, so this means the iPhone for Sprint has a SIM card slot? GSM uses a SIM card.

JimThePCGuy
Formerly known as schja01.
Premium,MVM
join:2000-04-27
Morton Grove, IL

Re: Sprint?

Yes I know the 4S and all newer have SIM slots. Mostly for international roaming (GSM and CDMA) and for the iPhone 5 and newer for domestic LTE.

delusion ftl

@comcast.net
all iphone's have a sim card slot, no matter the carrier.

Verizon does not sim lock their iphones, ATT and Tmo do but will unlock on request. Sprint locks and will never unlock for any reason.

MrMaster
jetsetter
Premium
join:2000-12-16
St Thomas, VI

Re: Sprint?

said by delusion ftl :

all iphone's have a sim card slot, no matter the carrier.

Verizon does not sim lock their iphones, ATT and Tmo do but will unlock on request. Sprint locks and will never unlock for any reason.

Bullshit.

I have just gotten my 4th HTC One phone unlocked just 2 days ago and all the others were under 30 days on my account.

Sprint sucks on a variety of issues but customer service is not one of them.
--
My signature is on strike.

n2jtx

join:2001-01-13
Glen Head, NY
said by lineofsight:

For domestic use, what good does it do to have an unlocked Sprint phone? I am just wondering.

The iPhone 4S, for example, is a dual mode phone. If I put a foreign SIM card in it, it switches from CDMA to GSM/UMTS. Pull the SIM out and it reregisters with Sprint on CDMA. Sprint unlocks iPhone's for use with foreign SIM's but steadfastly refuses to remove the block for SIM's with an MCC of 310 or 311 (United States) other than those owned by Sprint. Sprint is claiming their version of the iPhone 4S is specially modified for them and does not allow unlocking. Those of us who understand how these phones work are crying BS!!! When I put a T-Mobile SIM in my phone, it contacts Apple and the card is rejected. If Sprint tells Apple to remove the block in their servers, the iPhone will accept all SIM's. They just refuse to do it.

Bottom line; JUST DON'T DO BUSINESS WITH SPRINT!!
--
I support the right to keep and arm bears.
sandman_1

join:2011-04-23
11111
Why wait for Sprint, unlock it yourself. I did (EVO 3D).

JimThePCGuy
Formerly known as schja01.
Premium,MVM
join:2000-04-27
Morton Grove, IL

Re: Sprint?

Well maybe because it's technically illegal?
GLIMMER

join:2004-01-17
Fisher, IL

Re: Sprint?

said by JimThePCGuy:

Well maybe because it's technically illegal?

WRONG!!!

Its illegal to unlock phones made after the ruling....

lineofsight

join:2003-01-03
East Saint Louis, IL
It sounds like Apple goes to extra trouble to manufacture phones that work for Sprint, not Verizon, etc. Perhaps with the new unlocking policy the phone manufacturers will just make one phone that can adapt to each carrier.

JimThePCGuy
Formerly known as schja01.
Premium,MVM
join:2000-04-27
Morton Grove, IL

Re: Sprint?

This goes contrary to my understanding. There are two iPhone 5S/5C CDMA models. On for the US and one for non US. So in theory (I could be wrong) the US CDMA capable iPhone could work on Vz and Sprint if unlocked. Which sort of makes sense since Sprint can roam on Vz and vice versa.

lineofsight

join:2003-01-03
East Saint Louis, IL

Re: Sprint?

I was thinking about the LTE bands. I know they don't all use the same bands.

dib22

join:2002-01-27
Kansas City, MO

2 edits
to OP sorry replied by accident meant to be a new post... you are correct about them being very tight with the keys to the gsm slots.

locked phones, or a locked network

Sprint operates a locked network, not locked devices. Verizon does as well.

Both sprint and verizon use CDMA as the voice component to their services... so if your device has voice service (and usually even when it doesn't) you have a CDMA account.

The CDMA chipsets used in the phones in the US (including LTE handsets, remember the voice service is being delivered via CDMA) these days are pretty universal, that is the same chipset will work on both sprint and verizons frequencies, and both CDMA networks are cross compatible (as they are both CDMA networks).

There really isn't a "locked" CDMA handset (ignore lte and international for a min), but that doesn't mean you can use your sprint handset on verizon because of the locked network.

When you add a device to the sprint or verizon network they ask you for the ESN/MEID, which is basically a serial number... they then look at the serial number to see if they will allow it on their network. Currently they only allow devices that they sold, or were sold with authorization. If the phone or device was reported stolen, they will mark in their database that serial number should not be allowed.

If they never sold a device with the serial number you give them (giving sprint a verizon or verizon a sprint phone) they will not be allowed as it either doesn't show up in or is marked as non sprint in the database. If the package was reported stolen when they mailed it to you, they will put in the database not to be allowed. Same situation for non pay or abuse... they simply mark the devices serial number as not allowed.

Now technically... could that sprint handset voice service (the CDMA part) actually work on verizons network to make and receive calls and general data with no software modification? Sure it could... the phone is not locked... the networks "allowed serial number database" is what is blocking it.

(it is true that sprint does sell international phones and iphones with sim slots for using international, they have been pretty stubborn in unlocking that slot for use in the usa... perhaps this will change that.

over time on verizon anyway (and perhaps later sprint) the sims included with the new lte devices will be used as the serial number for even the CDMA side, and the CDMA side will eventually be shut down over time, replaced by LTE and whatever the winner of the fifth generation of wireless standard has created. )
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO
I was speaking with someone about a Nexus 5 yesterday on Sprint and they told me Sprint still required a 2 year contract with it even if you bought it outright on your own.

I have not confirmed this, but I will be as I wanted to get one.
pkorx8

join:2003-06-19
San Francisco, CA

Educate me on iphones...

Does sprint iphones (4, 4s, 5, 5s, 5c) have sim card and gsm radio sets?

If so, what bands?

delusion ftl

@comcast.net

Re: Educate me on iphones...

Yes, same bands as the verizon version for the most part, with the exception of the 5S/5C where sprint has their own model and VZW/ATT/TMO have the same model.

n2jtx

join:2001-01-13
Glen Head, NY
said by pkorx8:

Does sprint iphones (4, 4s, 5, 5s, 5c) have sim card and gsm radio sets?

If so, what bands?

The iPhone 4 DOES NOT have a SIM slot. There were two different versions; a GSM version and a CDMA version. Starting with the 4S, the phones are dual mode and have SIM slots. They have both an IMEI for GSM/UMTS and an ESN for CDMA. 3G and LTE can be problematic depending on the model due to various bands but as of the iPhone 5S, they are all pretty well covered except for Sprint's LTE band 41 (2.5GHz).
--
I support the right to keep and arm bears.

JimThePCGuy
Formerly known as schja01.
Premium,MVM
join:2000-04-27
Morton Grove, IL
4 and 4s have SIM cards to permit international GSM roaming I don't think their radios are on the same frequencies and domestic GSM carriers. BUT the iPhone 5C and 5S are capable of all the domestic GSM, CDMA and LTE frequencies.
The frequencies/bands are documented here for the 5S and 5C.
»www.apple.com/iphone-5s/specs/
ISurfTooMuch

join:2007-04-23
Tuscaloosa, AL

Re: Educate me on iphones...

The GSM version of the 4 does, but the CDMA version, at least the one that ran on Verizon, does not.
ISurfTooMuch

join:2007-04-23
Tuscaloosa, AL

What about non-customers

What about phones that were previously used on a carrier but that are now inactive because the customer closed their account?

dib22

join:2002-01-27
Kansas City, MO

Re: What about non-customers

said by ISurfTooMuch:

What about phones that were previously used on a carrier but that are now inactive because the customer closed their account?

Totally up to the carrier... att for example limits it to 5 of them per current or former accounts a year.

»www.att.com/deviceunlock/client/en_US/

quote:
Business customers should make a request to unlock a business device at ATT.com/biz.

Current customers will be allowed up to five (5) unlocks per account, per year.

Former customers will be allowed a total of five (5) unlocks per former account.

In addition, AT&T will unlock any AT&T Mobile Device for an active and deployed member of the military who is a current AT&T customer in good standing and is able to provide AT&T with deployment verification.

who knows if that will change in the coming months. generating profit should dictate that they would unlock a million handsets per customer per year if the customer was paying for them...
shmerl

join:2013-10-21

This is just masking the symptom, not curing the cause

There is a real need to reform the law and to repeal DMCA 1201 which forbids circumventing DRM even when there is no infringement involved. This would resolve all these issues once and for all, since it's the root cause of all the unlocking problems. See »fixthedmca.org
ctggzg
Premium
join:2005-02-11
USA
kudos:2

Typical anti-business bias

"It technically remains legal for you to jailbreak your phone, but you can't unlock it without carrier permission. The absurdity of that concept..."

What absurdity? A company giving you a discount on hardware in exchange for being required to stay their customer? That happens all the time and there's nothing wrong with it. Would you prefer that they sell you unlocked phones for a higher price?

ctceo
Premium
join:2001-04-26
South Bend, IN

RE: Unlimited

Now if only we can use the same petition method to stop providers from using the word unlimited and furthermore charging absurd prices for shitty 2, 4 & 6gb 4g packages.
wispalord

join:2007-09-20
Farmington, MO

Just buy a unlocked phone

google amazon and several others sell phones no contract unlocked and u can use them anywhere that's the answer.. I agree with the phone company there saving you $300 or more on a phone till you stay with them or pay the etf why let u use it else where you owe them money?! be like financing a car and selling it to you friend and be like here find a way to get it legal with out me paying it off... wake up ppl
sonnyb

join:2013-12-18
US

Re: Just buy a unlocked phone

This whole industry IMO is built on deception, game playing and confusion, anyone reading this with a cell phone, knows exactly what I am talking about, Its worst then talking to a used car salesman. until the phone purchase gets separated from the phone service this will only get worst, these phones are producing tremendous markups for these companies even at the provider contrat discounted prices. which then, on the other hand only plays in there favor, by then making the retail store unlocked phone prices seem like highway robbery. I also read why apple would make a phone for this one diffent then for that one etc, its really simple, it's inflating the phone prices overall which means more profit for them, its a no brainer.

Can you imagine a world "or should I say the United States" since the rest of the world does do this" in which you can shop for the phone you really want based on options, without the contrat bs mixed in, then you can move on to compare providers, based on service not this works with that, or this for this long, costing that much if you get this plan.

My wife and I walked into a Metro PCS corporate store last week, bought a 49.00 Samsung for my 14 yr old, no confustion or sales bs, the guy was straight forward on the throttling after 500mg or something and had no problem confirming more then once they will unlock it after 3 months of service by giving us the unlock code if requested. now the whole family will be moving over in a few months as well. from what I read on this tread its amazing Sprint even has a customer base left, but then again we stuck with Verizon for all these years so I guess anything's possiable. until people wake up and start acting with their wallets, nothing will ever change, I signed up here to get some advice on switching over to MagicJack or Basic Talk, maybe even Staright talk since its wireless noy dsl dependent and just came upon this after activating.

Glad I signed up. their are some good reads around here.

Sonny