Mobile providers would be required to unlock customers’ mobile phones within 60 days of activation, according to a proposal under consideration at the FCC. Commissioners will vote this month on a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) about the proposal.

Unlocking phones enables easier switching between carriers, provided that the phone is compatible with the network to which it is being moved.

The FCC said unlocking will provide consumers with greater flexibility in switching providers, increased competition among carriers by reducing switching costs, and reduced confusion for consumers by having all service providers operate under the same set of rules.

“That is why we are proposing clear, nationwide mobile phone unlocking rules,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a press release. “When you buy a phone, you should have the freedom to decide when to change service to the carrier you want and not have the device you own stuck by practices that prevent you from making that choice.”

Specifically, the NPRM asks for comment on three issues:

  • whether an unlocking requirement should be applied to existing contracts or future contacts;
  • the impact of a 60-day unlocking requirement in connection with service providers’ incentives to offer discounted phones for postpaid and prepaid service plans; and
  • whether an unlocking requirement would benefit smaller providers, new entrants and resellers by increasing the number of phones available on the secondary market.

T-Mobile has actively courted people with unlocked phones. The T-Mobile Easy Switch capability enables people with unlocked eSIM-compatible phones to become subscribers in just a few minutes, according to the carrier.

Another company that markets directly to those with unlocked phones is TextNow. In May, TextNow said it would offer free, ad-supported mobile data for “vital services” including email, maps and rideshare apps in addition to unlimited calling and texting via 5G. The service can be used on any unlocked iPhone or Android phone.

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