UK communications regulator Ofcom has published an online guide to help customers unlock their mobile phones.
Mobile network operators may electronically ‘lock’ mobile phones to their network when customers buy the phone. This prevents the device from being used with another network at home or abroad.
It’s necessary to unlock these phones before they can be used with a different network provider… and this is sometimes chargeable.
Ofcom notes that EE (including T-Mobile and Orange) and Vodafone always lock their phones. By contrast, Three has stopped doing this since December last year.
Some operators will always charge for unlocking - for example, EE asks for £20.42 - while others will only charge if a customer asks for unlocking within the first 12 months of a contract. The amount of time between a request and the unlocking also varies.
A new law in the USA has just made it legal for Americans to remove this type of ‘SIM lock’; it had been prohibited by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) since last year.
[Ofcom: Mobile Phone Locking and Unlocking]