It wasn’t long ago that getting your mobile phone unlocked was a real pain to get sorted out. I remember calling up T-Mobile and they said they couldn’t or wouldn’t unlock my mum’s Sony Ericsson phone. Not without a ridiculous charge anyway. I think I then proceeded to look on the Internet and the many dodgy eBay listings stating they could provide an unlock code or piece of software for me to do it myself. They were much cheaper but was I prepared to risk it?! Nope.
Nowadays things are much, much easier. Thanks to SIM only contracts, better governance by OfCom and co-operation from mobile phone networks, we can now get our phones unlocked just by calling the network that it’s locked to and making the request to them. For most networks however, there is still a charge of between £10-20 if you’re phone is of the Pay-as-you-go type. If you’re on a pay monthly contract you’ll be a bit more fortunate and not have to pay but there maybe a minimum of 3 to 6 months before you can unlock your phone.
The next issue is the speed at which the network will unlock your phone. Three will only make you wait up to to 7 days whereas Virgin and Tesco state up to month.
Three are probably the best network with regards to having your phone unlocked. Since the end of last year they stopped selling phones that are locked to their network. These include pay-monthly & PAYG which are all sold unlocked. Hopefully this will mean the other network follow suit and give customers much more freedom.
As mentioned just recently, one of the benefits of having an unlocked phone is that you can then use it abroad, avoiding roaming charges by putting in a local SIM card.
This handy table from Ofcom tells you which mobile networks have online unlock forms, how long it takes and the charges, if any.
Ideally, going forward I would like to see either a free unlocking service provided by all networks or for them to simply offer an unlocked phone when providing them on PAYG or at the end of pay-monthly contracts. This will allow consumers to choose the best deals for their phones and give them the flexibility of inserting a SIM card from another provider whether that’s at home or abroad.