Buy a smartphone from a wireless carrier in the United States, and there’s a pretty good chance that it’ll be locked to that carrier, making it difficult to switch from Verizon to AT&T, for example, while keeping the same phone.

The situation is pretty much the same in Canada… for now. But starting in December, Canada’s Radio Television and Communications Commission will require that all phone sold in the country will have to be unlocked when provided to customers. And if you want to unlock a phone purchased before December, carriers will have to let you do that for free starting on December 1st.

The move will make it much easier for customers to switch carriers without the need to buy a new phone or pay a penalty to unlock their existing device.

Of course, carriers still have other ways to lock you into a contract: the new CRTC rules will make it easier to take a device with you when you go, but you may still have to pay an early cancellation fee.

The CRTC also adopted a few other new rules, including one that allows customers who sign up for a new wireless service to cancel their contract as long as they do so within 15 days and return their device “in near-new condition,” having “used less than half their monthly usage limits.”

In other words, when you sign up for a new wireless contract, you’ve got 15 days to kick the tires to see if it meets your needs. If you’re not happy during that trial period, the carrier can’t charge you for canceling the contract.

via CBC and The Globe and Mail


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16 replies on “Canada requires all new smartphones to be carrier unlocked (starting in December)”

  1. Does it require the carriers to include bands that the other carriers use? If not then this is meaningless for the most part.

    1. Obviously it wouldn’t require the carriers to change their bands–that would be extremely expensive if not downright impractical. But as I mentioned above, some phones are multi-carrier.

      1. I just saying they can lock them in based on bands available on the phone.

        1. Interesting thought. I wonder though if Canada even has the same band issues we have down here. I would guess they do since our phones will all work up there, but I’ve never read anything about Canada’s system.

          1. CDMA was discontinued last year in Canada, so all networks provide some variation of GSM support, though the frequencies vary.

    2. All the major carriers in Canada (known as the big 3 – Bell, Rogers and Telus) all use the same bands so an unlocked phone from one of those work with the other two so it’s pretty useful.

  2. Meanwhile, Telus just announced they will EXCLUSIVELY be offering Andy Rubin’s “Essential PH1” phone.

    Maybe people can buy the phone-only from Telus, have it unlocked, and use it on their choice of network.

  3. I’m fairly certain all Verizon phones have been unlocked for several years now, but most don’t work on the same frequency as AT&T. Very few phones work on all the different networks. The new Moto G5 Plus is an exception.

      1. I only know this because Verizon was my carrier when I went to Europe a few years ago, even my old Samsung S4 was unlocked–so the answer to your question is Europe! 😉 (But I think Sprint might be another answer, and some devices are multi-carrier, like the Moto I mentioned.)

  4. Why these gangster tactics are legal escapes me. Sure, in the beginning when the technology hadn’t scaled yet such regressive strategies were needed to get consumers on board to gain scale. That time has long passed. Phones need to become commodity items and need to radically narrow to a common user interface. What we have now is a completely out of control market producing simply insane issues. Imagine picking up a phone from somebody who just keeled over to try to call for emergency help. Not only are there security barriers but usability barriers to just making the damned call. This is nuts.

    1. If you mean security as in you need to unlock the phone first, I think you can call emergency numbers even with a locked phone. There are ICE (in case of emergency) numbers that you can setup in Android and those can be called with a locked phone too (not sure about iPhone but would guess the same concept is there).

      1. “not sure about iPhone”…I think that’s the point they were trying to make. If I had to pick up a Windows Phone and make an emergency call, the guy might die before I figure out how to do it, even though it will work, it’s not a given that we can make it work in a high-pressure time-sensitive situation with a life on the line (so to speak).

    2. Phones are a commodity item. It’s just that there’s still a sizable number of consumers out there who are willing to fork out big bucks for the latest and greatest models, even if they only offer incremental improvements over something costing hundreds of dollars less.

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