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Researcher faults unlocking policies from Sprint and T-Mobile

Matt Hamblen | Feb. 18, 2015
Both carriers only meet half of the voluntary commitments, Sina Khanifar says.

Most carriers have LTE networks for interoperability, so an unlocked phone could be easier to use on another carrier, assuming the frequencies are the same.

Khanifar said he believes there are many smartphone and tablet owners in the U.S. who want to unlock their devices and move to other carriers. He estimated that number at 100,000 devices a year.

"...It's your phone, so you should do whatever the hell you want with it," he said. An unlocked phone has far more value if resold than a locked one, he added.

Khanifar also faulted the Code for the way it was conceived. He said the FCC opted to have the carriers sign the voluntary Code in lieu of tighter regulation in late 2013. "I think the FCC came up with that approach because creating new regulations is just a headache for the FCC, so the Code would get some of the work done without going all the way," he said.

What the carriers came up with are "confusing" unlocking policies. "Sprint's policy is particularly confusing," he said.

He also said the Code fails to include a commitment by carriers to accept unlocked devices on their networks. "If you unlock your phone, you need to be able to take it to another carrier and use it," he said.

He also noted that Congress passed a bill in August that was signed by President Obama to make unlocking a phone or tablet legal. But that the provision isn't permanent. He called on Congress and the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to consider legislation that says it is not illegal to circumvent a lock as long as there's no intent to infringe on a copyright, similar to the Unlocking Technology Act that failed in Congress in 2013.

In addition to describing himself as a Web developer, Khanifar said he is a founder of two wireless-related companies, RepeaterStore and OpenSignal, and is a technology fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group devoted to defense of digital civil liberties.


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