FCC Proposes New Rule to Simplify Phone Unlocking and Carrier Switching

by | Jun 28, 2024 | Billsaver, Cell Phone Tips

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a new rule aimed at simplifying the process of unlocking smartphones and switching carriers. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced the proposal on Thursday, June 27, as reported by The Verge.

Key Details of the Proposal:

  • Unlocking Requirement: Mobile providers would be required to unlock devices 60 days after activation.
  • Consumer Freedom: According to Rosenworcel, the proposal aims to promote transparency and consistency, giving consumers the freedom to choose their carrier without being restricted by current practices.“Real competition benefits from transparency and consistency,” said Rosenworcel. “That is why we are proposing clear, nationwide mobile phone unlocking rules. When you buy a phone, you should have the freedom to decide when to change service to the carrier you want and not have the device you own stuck by practices that prevent you from making that choice.”

Currently, the major wireless carriers—AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile—already have their own unlock policies. AT&T and Verizon both have a 60-day unlock policy, while T-Mobile’s policy is 40 days. However, both T-Mobile and AT&T require phones to be fully paid off before unlocking.

Potential Changes:

  • It’s unclear whether the FCC’s new rule would affect the requirement for phones to be paid off before unlocking. If implemented, the rule might change how carriers structure contracts or possibly require customers to purchase phones upfront rather than over the contract period.

Market Impact:

  • Unlocked phones represent a growing segment of the US smartphone market. A 2020 study by the NPD Group estimated that there were 50.1 million active unlocked phones in the US, out of over 311 million smartphone users, according to a Statista study from last year. This suggests that around 16% of smartphone users have an unlocked device.

Next Steps:

  • The FCC has called for public comments on the proposal. An open meeting will be held on July 18 to vote on the notice of rulemaking. The comment period will begin after this meeting, with discussions on whether the new requirement should apply to current or future contracts.