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SIM Unlock Laws Take Effect Wednesday

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You might recall last summer President Obama signed into law that all carriers had to allow customers to unlock phones and take them to whatever carrier they wish. Well, that law is officially going into effect on Wednesday, February 11, 2015. This law goes for both MVNOs and primary carriers, from what I understand.

Here are what the current unlocking policies for prepaid devices with all four of the main carriers look like as of yesterday:

 AT&T

Policy

  • Device must be designed to work on AT&T network
  • Device must not be reported as lost or stolen
  • You must own the device completely (payment plans completed)
  • Device must not be on contract or active on another account
  • Device must have been active for 6 months of paid service

 T-Mobile

Policy

  • Must be a T-Mobile device
  • Device must not be reported as stolen, and you must own the phone
  • Account associated with device must be cancelled and in good standing
  • Must be active for at least 1 year OR must have more than $25 in refills for basic phone/ more than $100 for smartphones
  • You may only request 2 unlock codes per line of service per year

 Sprint

Policy

  • Must be a current or former account holder
  • Account must be in good standing
  • Device must not be on contract
  • Device must be purchased after January 2015 to be able to be unlocked

 Verizon

Policy

  • Verizon does not lock phones, so no action is necessary
  • Prepaid ‘boxed’ phones may be locked out of the box, but can be reprogrammed with the code “000000” or “123456”

Most of these policies are not too greatly changed, with the notable exception of Sprint.

Prior to February 11, Sprint prepaid devices could not be unlocked or moved to another carrier and devices purchased before this policy became mandatory still cannot be unlocked. Sprint notes in fine print that once a device is unlocked, customers might not be able to bring the device back to Sprint prepaid. There are also a million addendum that the device, even though it’s unlocked, might still not work on other carrier networks, and they may not be able to unlock the GSM abilities–only CDMA. If you intend to unlock a Sprint device, be sure to read the policy thoroughly.

Keep in mind, of course, that just because you SIM unlock a phone, that does not mean that it will be automatically compatible with all other carriers. Be sure to check with the carrier you intend to use to ensure the device is compatible and will work properly.