An updated frequently asked questions (FAQ) page on Sprint Corp.’s (NYSE:S) website revealed on Wednesday that new devices available on the wireless carrier will be domestically unlockable, allowing such wireless devices to work on another network in the U.S., such as those of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile US, Inc. (NYSE:TMUS), as soon as the beginning of 2015.
The move by Sprint arrives as part of an agreement between wireless carriers represented by CTIA - The Wireless Association and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which was signed back in December 2013. According to the new unlocking policies being implemented by Sprint, the carrier is making moves to ensure “eligible devices” that the carrier sells will all be capable of being domestically unlocked by Feb. 11, 2015.
An excerpt from Sprint’s FAQ page:
“In accordance with Sprint's voluntary commitment contained within CTIA's Consumer Code for Wireless Service (“Unlocking Commitment”), Sprint is working to ensure that all devices developed and launched on or after February 11, 2015 are capable of being unlocked domestically.”
While Sprint appears to be working to make sure devices launched on the carrier will be able to be domestically unlocked, it does preface the statement, explaining that not all wireless devices currently on the network are necessarily capable of being unlocked domestically due to manufacturer designs.
“Specifically, devices manufactured with a SIM slot within the past three years (including, but not limited to, all Apple iPhone devices), cannot be unlocked to accept a different domestic carrier's SIM for use on another domestic carrier's network. Sprint has no technological process available to do this,” Sprint explains in their FAQ.
The Library of Congress revoked the unlocking exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the beginning of January 2013, making the unlocking of devices without wireless carrier permission illegal. However, a petition filed by the Obama administration in September 2013 with the FCC eventually led to voluntary unlocking agreement drafted and agreed upon by carriers represented by the CTIA and the FCC.
Sprint is among the first of the wireless carriers represented by the CTIA to implement such provisions to ensure the ability to domestically unlock future wireless devices. While there’s no confirmation on whether or not carriers such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T will implement such policies, it’s very likely due to the unlocking agreement conditions, which state that carriers agree to implement the unlocking agreement in its entirety within 12 months.