FCC Proposes New Rule to Unlock Phones Within 60 Days

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The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a new rule requiring wireless carriers to unlock iPhones and Android smartphones within 60 days of user activation. This move aims to help users change carriers more easily, promoting market competition. The proposal is currently open for public comments and will be discussed in a public meeting on July 18, 2024.

Commission Chairman Rosenworcel said:

Real competition requires transparency and consistency, so we are proposing clear, national rules for unlocking phones. When you buy a phone, you should have the freedom to change carriers if you choose, not be locked out of that choice…

The Issue of Locked Phones

Many carriers sell “locked iPhones” and other smartphones through contracts or subsidies. These locked phones can only use the network of the specific carrier they are sold through. If a user tries to use a SIM card from another carrier, the phone may be locked and unable to switch networks. To change carriers, users must first apply to their current carrier to unlock their phone. However, there is currently no regulation on how long carriers can take to unlock phones, leading to delays and frustrations for consumers.

FCC’s Proposal for Transparency

FCC Chairman Rosenworcel emphasized the need for transparency and consistency in phone unlocking processes. She stated that real competition requires clear, national rules for unlocking phones. When consumers buy a phone, they should have the freedom to change carriers if they choose, and not be locked into a single carrier.

The FCC’s proposed rule requires all carriers to unlock phones within 60 days after users activate their devices. This rule aims to provide users with more freedom and flexibility to switch carriers as they see fit. The commission will invite carriers and other relevant parties to discuss the proposal, and if no objections are accepted, the rule will take effect soon.

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Understanding Locked Phones

Locked phones are usually sold at a lower price and are often promoted with a guaranteed minimum call fee. These phones are locked to only use the network of the designated carrier until the contract expires or the full amount is paid. However, unlocking a phone allows it to be used with different carriers’ networks.

There are several methods to unlock a phone, depending on the model. For example, experts can crack Apple iPhones using card stickers and other techniques. However, these methods can be unreliable and may cause issues later, such as being unable to activate the phone or use the SIM card. Unlocking a phone can also depend on luck, as the success and functionality after unlocking can vary.

Current Unlocking Process

Currently, users who want to change carriers must request their current carrier to unlock their phone. Without regulation, carriers can take an indefinite amount of time to process these requests, causing delays and inconvenience for consumers. The FCC’s proposed rule seeks to address this issue by setting a clear timeframe for carriers to unlock phones.

FCC’s Next Steps

The FCC plans to vote on the proposal to expand cellphone unlocking requirements on July 18, 2024. Following the vote, the commission will solicit opinions and feedback from operators and consumers. This is to ensure that the rule meets the needs of all parties involved. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how operators and consumers will receive the proposal.


The FCC’s proposed rule to unlock phones within 60 days of activation. The new proposal aims to promote market competition and provide consumers with more freedom to change carriers. By setting clear, national rules for phone unlocking, the FCC hopes to create a more transparent and consistent process for users. However, as the proposal moves forward, it will be important for carriers, consumers, and other stakeholders to engage in discussions and provide feedback to ensure the rule is effective and fair for all.

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