Verizon Granted Sixty-Day Carrier Lock For New Handsets

Verizon's request to temporarily lock new handsets for sixty days has been granted by the FCC in the form of a partial waiver.

According to Verizon's request, the top-ranked US carrier wanted to temporarily lock handsets in order to combat two different types of fraud. Just what fraud does Verizon have in mind? The first kind of fraud refers to those who steal handsets from new users, then use them on any network.

Up until now, Verizon handsets have been unlocked from the outset, meaning that someone who steals a new smartphone purchased from the carrier could take out the SIM and use it right away. Additionally, the thief could take advantage of the owner's SIM card and the information there to conduct other fraudulent activity. Carrier unlock wasn't protecting smartphone owners, Verizon says.

There is a second type of fraud related to smartphone owners themselves, however. A number of smartphone owners purchase new smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S10 knowing that they're never going to pay for the handset. The purchase is solely for the sake of getting the phone in hand, then "running" with it without any financial obligation. Usually, those who purchase the handset with this mindset intend to sell the handset on sites such as eBay.

There are a few things to note about Verizon's request to the FCC and the carrier's partial waver. First, it is a "partial waiver," meaning that the FCC didn't grant a "Declaratory Ruling" because "the unlocking rule already permits such temporary locking," the FCC wrote in its partial waiver.

Next, the carrier phone lock timeframe is sixty days, or two months. This is important because it means that a thief cannot use the phone on other networks, which deters the theft in the first place. Secondly, the smartphone buyer who intends to defraud Verizon and not pay for the phone won't be rewarded for their buyer fraud, but will have to pay at least two months on the phone before using it elsewhere.

The thought of having to pay for the phone is what the fraudulent buyer doesn't want, so perhaps the idea of paying for the phone may deter a phone purchase in the first place (in this case, a fraudulent purchase; Verizon loves it when honest smartphone buyers pay for their phones, whether it be in the form of cash, check, or charge).

This new sixty-day carrier phone lock with Verizon for new handsets doesn't mean that handsets won't be ultimately unlocked; in fact, after the sixty days are up, by law, Verizon must unlock your handset, even if you haven't paid it all off or requested a phone unlock. Some Verizon customers may find this to be a bit annoying and frustrating, but the good news is that the carrier lock disappears after sixty days unless Verizon detects the purchase is designed with fraud in mind.

One may wonder why Verizon had to request such a waiver from the FCC in the first place. The reason pertains to its 700MHz C Block spectrum for its LTE network that was leased years ago, where Verizon promised to leave its handsets utilizing this spectrum open for use on other networks (in other words, LTE phones were not to be unlocked). Verizon's request fits in line with carrier locking rules but "violates" the 700MHz C Block spectrum agreement that is on the table; Verizon had to file a waiver in order to avoid violating the agreement.

Sixty days in carrier lock may be inconvenient, but Verizon says it's protecting you by doing so. Verizon is protecting its own financial interest with the phone, of course, but protecting both carrier and customer is a win-win for all, no?

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About the Author

Deidre Richardson

Staff News Writer
Deidre Richardson is a tech lover whose insatiable desire for all things tech has kept her in tech journalism some eight years now. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she earned BA degrees in both History and Music. Since graduating from Carolina in 2006, Richardson obtained a Master of Divinity degree and spent four years in postgraduate seminary studies. She's written five books since 2017 and all of them are available at Amazon. You can connect with Deidre Richardson on Facebook.