A recent law mandates the unlocking of all Chilean cell phones. The United States has yet to pass similar initiatives.
As of this Monday, The Republic of Chile has joined a handful of nations forcing cell phone companies to sell unlocked devices. According to Techspot.com, “the sale of carrier-locked handsets is forbidden…What’s more, devices purchased before the mandate will be unlocked. Folks with restricted handsets can follow instructions posted at Wayerless. The process is simple: visit a certain page on your carrier’s site (Movistar, Claro or Entel), submit a form with basic information and you’ll receive an unlock code. If that doesn’t work, you’ll probably have to get in touch with your service provider’s customer support.”
Officials believe the decision will make cell phones more portable in the country. The country has also decided that mandatory number portability should accompany unlocked devices, and that initiative is set to go in effect next week. Singapore has long required wireless companies to provide unlocked devices, and in 2010 a similar law passed in Israel. The United States and the European Union have yet to issue similar mandates.
Cell phone manufacturers and wireless service providers draw up contracts that make certain mobile devices exclusively available on certain networks. When the iPhone was originally released, anyone who wanted the device had to sign up for a two-year AT&T contract. Wall Street Journal reports that “The arrangement between Apple and AT&T was groundbreaking at a time when carriers tightly controlled the appearance and function of their phones, and put Silicon Valley companies like Apple and Google in the wireless industry’s driver’s seat.” The union benefited AT&T tremendously, as the iPhone quickly became the industry standard for smart phones.
But that all changed last year when it was announced that Verizon would also start supporting the device. Apple dropped its exclusivity after recognizing the need to cooperate with the nation’s largest wireless service provider in order to boost sales in the U.S. Verizon also carries devices powered by Google’s android operating system, the iPhone’s leading competitor.
However, Verizon and AT&T are not the nation’s only wireless providers, and many people on different networks who would like an iPhone do not have the option. If the United States were to pass a mandate similar to Chile’s, citizens could pair the cell phone they wanted with the network they prefer. Those truly frustrated with exclusivity do have the option of modifying the software of their devices, though this is typically frowned upon by service providers.