Albert Mita: US Will Now Have To Unlock Smartphones Without Charge

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Albert Mita offers his commentary on the issue.

“Just because a carrier unlocks the phone doesn't mean the phone works with every other carrier,” Mita said

Albert Mita, CEO of Phantom Communications, offers his reaction on how this will play out in the marketplace.

In August, Obama signed a bill into law forcing carriers to unlock cell phones. Wednesday marked the deadline for compliance. The idea, as Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler put it, is to “give consumers the freedom to switch between carriers without having to purchase a new cellphone, allowing them to choose the mobile service plans that fits their specific needs and budget.”

There are two key provisions the agreement carriers made with the FCC: the postpaid unlocking policy and the prepaid unlocking policy.

Under the postpaid unlocking policy, carriers will unlock mobile wireless devices or provide the necessary information for consumers, former customers in good standing and individual owners who want to unlock their eligible devices after the fulfillment of the applicable postpaid service contracts, device financing plans, or payment of applicable early termination fees, upon request.

Under the prepaid unlocking policy, carriers, upon request, will unlock prepaid mobile wireless devices no later than one year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time, payment or usage requirements.

Other provisions call for carriers to post clear, concise disclosures about mobile wireless device unlocking; clearly notify customers that their devices are eligible for unlocking or automatically unlock them remotely at the appropriate times; unlock eligible devices within two business days after receiving the requests; and unlock mobile devices for deployed military personnel who are customers in good standing upon provision of deployment papers.

“Just because a carrier unlocks the phone doesn't mean the phone works with every other carrier,” Mita said. “The technologies are often different. Cell phone network standards are different. The modem requirements are different, and so on.”

“It really won't make a big difference to the vast majority of customers nationwide. This is a whole lot of attention being paid to just a very thin slice of the pie,” Mita said. “But for those who want it, let's hope it works the way it was advertised by the government.”

The bottom line with the mandate for U.S. carriers to unlock cell phones is: It will affect some, but not all customers.

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