Verizon SIM-locking phones again soon to “reduce fraud”
Verizon has announced that it will lock smartphones to the SIM card inside of it after a period of use to combat “theft and reduce fraud.” While the move puts it in line with its competition, there is some concern that the move violates one of the agreements it made to acquire a block of spectrum in 2008.
Details about the locking scheme, which would prevent the use of a phone’s cellular capabilities with any other SIM but the original one put in, are vague at this point, but they’re expected to come along as the program rolls out in spring. Customers will have to request the network to unlock their device for use with an international SIM or — in a more likely scenario — if they have paid off their phone and would like to take it to another carrier.
The carrier says that it is concerned about stemming thieves, be it person-to-person or through the supply chain, and their would-be revenue streams.
Some analysts and consumers claim that Verizon is breaking a stipulation it made to acquire the ‘C’ block of 700MHz spectrum from a 2008 FCC auction — that prohibited the inter-network compatibility-locking of any handset sold by a bandwidth licensee — with the new policy.
Verizon counters with its belief that:
This change does not impact the spirit of that agreement as it is designed to deter theft by those who engage in identity theft or other fraud. It is not inconsistent with our obligations under the C block.
The company will unlock its phones whether the device is paid off or not and will continue to sign unlocked devices from other networks.
CNET notes that every other major carrier requires that a customer who finance their smartphone through their respective network must pay off the balance and go through a wait period of at least 40 days in the case of T-Mobile and as long as 75 days or more on AT&T with 60 of those days on active service.
With all that said, Android Police has pointed out that Verizon originally fought with FCC over the requirements for the 700MHz auction and then backed down in the face of more regulation-heavy regime. Under the current conservative administration, though, Verizon may expect that the FCC won’t enforce punishment for loosening its adherence to the agreement to which it is bound.