Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Verizon Wireless says iPhone 5 will remain unlocked forever

On Friday, when the iPhone 5 was released, it was discovered that Verizon iPhones were SIM-unlocked. You can slip an AT&T SIM into it, and although you don't get LTE service, and have to disable LTE in settings, it works on AT&T's HSPA+ faux-4G network. Is this a mistake? Not according to Verizon.

Not only that, Verizon confirmed that it won't "relock" the phones. An unlocked SIM slot, even one that only takes a nano-SIM, is a boon for travelers. It's also a boon for those who want to move to T-Mobile's network. T-Mobile, we already know, is going to be selling nano-SIMs to help users, as well. The nations No. 4 largest wireless carrier remains the only one of the Big Four without access to the iPhone.

It's a big advantage for the nation's No. 1 wireless carrier. Last year, Verizon would only unlock the then-current generation iPhone 4S models after 60 days. Sprint iPhone 5s are locked, but customers can request unlocking after three months for international use.

AT&T continues its rather harsh unlocking policy for the iPhone 5: it will unlock off-contract phones only.

While this might seem like a business move, and perhaps a perk to offset the fact that Verizon and Sprint iPhone 5s still cannot access data at the same time they are on a voice call, it appears the allowance might be because of an FCC regulation related to the 700 MHz spectrum that Verizon uses for its LTE network. The FCC's CFR Title 47 Part 27.16 paragraph (e) says:
(e) Handset locking prohibited. No licensee may disable features on handsets it provides to customers, to the extent such features are compliant with the licensee's standards pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section, nor configure handsets it provides to prohibit use of such handsets on other providers' networks.
Done out of the goodness of their corporate hearts or because of an FCC regulation, it's a boon for frequent travelers, and also for potential T-Mobile customers. T-Mobile should be patting its rival on the back for this.

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