Initially, the phones will be unlocked once a customer signs up and activates the service; however, later in the spring, Verizon will keep the phone locked for a period of time similar to other networks.
Verizon claims it is doing this to deter criminals from stealing phones on route to retail stores or from stores themselves. Unlocked phones are more attractive to thieves because they can be resold on the black market or used overseas.
"We're taking steps to combat this theft and reduce fraud," Tami Erwin, executive vice president of wireless operations for Verizon, said in a statement. "These steps will make our phones exponentially less desirable to criminals."
The move appears to contradict an agreement Verizon made with the FCC. As part of its deal to acquire the C block of 700 megahertz spectrum for its 4G LTE network, Verizon was prohibited from locking phones.
Verizon says it's not violating the 'spirit of that agreement':
"This change does not impact the spirit of that agreement as it is designed to deter theft by those who engage in identity theft or other fraud," said a spokeswoman for Verizon. "It is not inconsistent with our obligations under the C Block."
Verizon wouldn't say how long the locked period would be once it comes into effect but said it will provide an update ahead of the new policy.
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