The August overturning of the ban on cell phone unlocking is already having a real impact on the mobile service market. New mobile virtual network operator US Mobile has now started offering its own in-house unlocking service for new customers.
The company says this at its unlocking page:
“We believe you should have the freedom to switch your service provider. That’s why we are offering to unlock your phone so that you can switch to US Mobile to take advantage of our flexible service plans.”
The telecom industry-backed ban on cellphone unlocking was lifted on August 2 when the Senate’s “Unlocking Consumer and Wireless Competition Act” passed in both houses of Congress and then was signed by the president. This came after a good deal of the normal Washington posturing, lobbying, revising, and general wrangling — including a questionable maneuver by the cellphone industry lobby to water down the bill.
The new law provides an exemption for cell phone unlocking to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
“It’s cool to see people actually using the unlocking law to improve competition,” said Sina Kanifar, author of the original unlocking petition to the White House that got the whole process rolling.
The phone unlocking process at US Mobile is all done online via a form at the company’s site. Once it’s complete, US Mobile emails you an unlock code to enter in your phone. The only requirement is that phones must be out of contract before they can be unlocked.
The US Mobile service runs over the T-Mobile network nationwide.
Signing up for US Mobile service is a little different from what you might be used to, but some things are the same. Instead of offering a few expensive plans that bundle talk, text, data, and international calling, US Mobile has customers create a monthly pay-as-you-go plan from scratch at its website. You can have your existing number ported to a new account, or you can select a new number. When you’re done, US Mobile sends you a SIM card.
The company also sells a variety of unlocked smartphones at its site, including the iPhone 6 and the HTC 1 M8.
US Mobile CEO Ahmed Khattak told VentureBeat that his company began offering service only two months ago and already has 500 users with no marketing at all. Khattak said most of the people now using US Mobile are elderly people and college kids.
College kids can sign up for US Mobile service and get a SIM card in the international student offices of more than 25 universities across the US, including Harvard, Yale, Vanderbilt, and Stanford.
Khattak said he began talking to carriers about a year ago and eventually signed a deal with T-Mobile to run his customers’ calls over the carrier’s network.