Unlocking Phones Just Got A Lot Easier

On Feb. 11, the top five wireless carriers in the US will implement new procedures for unlocking a cellular device. These new set of unlocking standards were put in place by the CTIA in late 2013 and it looks like it will be good news for the consumers.


The basic outline of the new procedures are:

  • Post-paid devices will quality to be unlocked as soon as the device is paid off in full or if the service contract ends

  • Pre-paid devices will qualify for unlocking no later than one year after activation.

  • If you are in the military, you can get your phones unlocked at any time by presenting your deployment orders.

  • Unlocking for current customers is free, while former customers and non-customers will be charged a “reasonable fee”


There are two different kinds of device “locks” that the new standard comprises of, a Master Subsidy Lock (MSL) and Domestic SIM Unlock-capable (DSU). A MSL device is one which has been manufactured and/or launched before Feb 2015. These devices will require an code from the carrier to unlock the phone. A DSU device is one that is launched after Feb 2015 and is able to receive an unlock command over-the-air, which means you will not have to input any codes to unlock the device.

However, the new set of standards do come with restrictions, so if you have a device that has been flagged as stolen, lost or associated with fraudulent activity, they you are out of luck. The device must also support the frequencies used by the carrier of choice. This should not be an issue with most newer flagship phones, but might be a problem for mid to lower tier devices.

Overall, this is a very welcome change from the hard stance that wireless carriers have taken in the past and its the customers who win.

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