In its Public Policy Blog, AT&T’s Joan Marsh, VP of Federal Regulatory policy has confirmed AT&T’s current unlock policy, which states that every postpaid customer is allowed to have their devices unlocked as soon as 60 days into the service agreement, provided the account is in good standing at the time of the request.
She also confirmed that accounts are limited to 5 device unlocks per year, ostensibly to accommodate family plans. However, the post goes on to contradict itself by also stating that the service agreement needs to be completed while also stating that unlocks are ok after the account is active after for 60 days, making the policy even more confusing for normal customers and everyone reading the post.
To add to the confusion, comments on the blog post expressed genuine surprise regarding the current policy, as AT&T usually goes out of its way to obscure the policy before, during and after device sales as well as frequently ignoring it. Since the majority of customers aren’t informed of the policy to begin with, they do not realize that unlocks are available two months into the agreement, though these requests are usually reserved for international travelers savvy enough to research the policy.
Marsh also clarifies the unlock policy also rests on the unlock codes being made available to AT&T to begin with, as AT&T initially refused to unlock the iPhone for 5 years until mid-2012, when the unlock policy for the iPhone was amended. The requirements included select iPhone models that needed to be tied to completed service agreements as well as a requirement for customers to call in and request authorization for each device by serial number, which then required a restore via iTunes.
Additionally many AT&T-exclusive devices are increasingly moving away from standard SIM unlock codes to the above Apple model, with Marsh claiming that AT&T customers are not negatively impacted by the Librarian’s ruling, even though many exclusive flagships do not currently have unlock codes available from manufacturers and AT&T has not clarified what constitutes an account “in good standing” as it still reserves the binding decision to deny or approve the unlock without any explanation required.
As AT&T is currently refusing to unlock their Lumia 920 and HTC 8X models for those that buy them under an agreement or outright without going through AT&T sales channels, while the post is intended to clarify AT&T’s position, it just makes things more confusing for everyone. With the White House and FCC essentially agreeing with carriers on consumers having to complete service agreements before devices can be unlocked, the issue of third-party unlocking by consumers will not be resolved anytime soon, even with regulator attention.