It’s about to be illegal for mobile phone owners to “unlock” a newly purchased phone so it can be used with any carrier, Tech News Daily reports.After January 26, mobile phone owners will no longer be able to buy a new, locked phone and unlock it. The law doesn’t apply if you purchased your phone before January 26, thanks to a grace period built into the law.
There are two reasons why consumers typically want to unlock phones: to switch carriers or to temporarily use an international carrier while travelling abroad and save money on global roaming charges.
It’s perfectly legal to buy a new, unlocked phone. For example, you’ll still be able to buy Verizon’s iPhone 5, which already comes unlocked, thanks to a complex regulatory concession Verizon made when it bought spectrum for high-speed data in 2008.
AT&T will continue to unlock phones once they’re out of contract. It no longer sells unlocked iPhones, though you can buy an AT&T-compatible model through Apple. With a two-year wireless contract, the iPhone 5 costs $199 and up; without one, it costs $649.
Back in October, the U.S. Copyright Office, which implements rules around circumventing software protections, decided that unlocking new mobile phones would no longer be allowed.
“In light of carriers’ current unlocking policies and the ready availability of new unlocked phones in the marketplace, the record did not support an exemption for newly purchased phones,” the decision stated.
It offered a 90-day grace period which expires Saturday, January 26.
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