The ultimate guide to Canadian carrier unlocking fees

The ultimate guide to Canadian carrier unlocking fees

“Your phone needs to be unlocked.”

The phrase still takes many Canadians by surprise. They were told that after they paid out the value of their smartphone over the span of a two-year contract they would own it — but generally ownership means the freedom to do what you like with your property, and ‘locked’ denotes restriction. The two ideas are contradictory.

In reality, once Canadians pay off their subsidized devices they are only free to use those devices on the carriers that sold them. Shopping around to other carriers requires the payment of another fee, the unlocking fee that caused so much debate at the Wireless Code Review in February.

So what’s the story behind unlocking and just how much is it going to cost you? Read on to find out.

What are unlocking fees and why do they exist?

SIM locks are a restriction built into devices by manufacturers, generally at the behest of service providers. SIM locks can be used to lock the device to a particular country, network or mobile subscriber identification number. Most phones can be unlocked, though the original branding and some firmware from the carrier may remain.

The basic idea behind keeping phones locked is to enforce the payment of a device subsidy over two years. The theory is that locking keeps users at their carriers after they purchase a device at a subsidized rate (for instance, $200 down on a $900 phone) rather than just taking the device and leaving behind the bill in order to snag a cheaper, non-subsidized plan rate at another carrier.

There are many holes in this argument, however, the first being that the Wireless Code introduced new rules in 2013 that carriers must provide unlocking services after 90 days. The subsidy amount remains high 90 days into the contract, giving fraudsters ample opportunity to profit off the device — the very abuse that unlocking fees aim to protect against.

Additionally, third-party unlocking services exist that render the entire argument null. The simple fact is that the majority of Canadians would rather not take the credit hit of abandoning their bills, while those who don’t mind can easily find a way to do so with or without the help of the carrier.

Will they continue to exist?

At the review of the Wireless Code held in February in Gatineau, Quebec, Freedom Mobile (formerly Wind) voiced dissatisfaction with the practice of mobile phone unlocking fees. It suggested that Canada’s telecom regulator, the CRTC, take the “bold step” of doing away with unlocking fees and directing carriers to order unlocked devices from manufacturers.

The Consumers’ Association of Canada, the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of British Columbia, National Pensioners Federation, and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (banding together to form the ‘Coalition’) agreed.

For his part, CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais suggested that unlocking fees should be available at a fixed price far below the average charge of $50 CAD.

Meanwhile, the CRTC released aggregated data that showed Canadian telecoms made $37.7 million CAD on unlocking revenue in 2016, generating press and significant public criticism. It’s unknown how much it costs carriers to unlock devices.

It’s also unclear whether or not the unlocking fee will survive much longer, due to its current unpopular position in the eye of the public and the front and centre slot it took during the recent Wireless Code Review. For now, however, MobileSyrup has aggregated the costs and guidelines related to unlocking at Canadian carriers, along with statements on the subject from several of Canada’s largest carriers.

Unlocking fees by Canadian carrier

Bell

Fee: $50, or $150 if your account carries a security deposit or is subject to a credit limit.

Guidelines: Can be requested in-store or by phone.

Comment: “The Wireless Code requires wireless service providers to disclose their unlocking fee when a customer is signing up for service. In a competitive marketplace, this information helps consumers make informed decisions about all aspects of their wireless service.

Wireless carriers do incur costs to unlock a device, and the wait period before unlocking subsidized devices is required to detect both fraud and non-payment by customers. Customers purchasing their device outright, or bringing their own device, can request to have their device unlocked at any time.”

Source: Bell

Virgin

Fee: $50, or $150 for phones under contract and subject to credit conditions like a credit limit or credit deposit. Former Virgin Mobile members $75 + applicable taxes.

Comment: “In an effort to help consumers make informed decisions about all aspects of their wireless service before hooking up, Virgin Mobile discloses its unlocking fee to Members when they’re signing up. This is also a requirement in the Wireless Code that impacts all wireless service providers. There is a cost incurred by the wireless carriers to unlock a device, as well as a required wait period before unlocking subsidized devices to detect both fraud and non-payment. However, Members who purchase their phone outright, or bringing their own, can request to get their phone unlocked at any time.”

Source: Virgin

Rogers

Fee: $50.

Guidelines: Can be requested in-store, by phone, via email or live chat. To unlock your device, your account must be in good standing and active on your Rogers account for at least 90 days or purchased at the no-term price.

Comment (on behalf of Rogers and Fido): “Fraud is a cost ultimately borne by all consumers. A locked device reduces the attractiveness to would-be thieves who need an unlocked phone to sell it on the open market. If a customer chooses to unlock their device, our specially trained customer care representatives will walk them through the process. Our unlocking fee goes towards the cost of managing the database and related administrative processes.”

The company also reports that all phones come to it locked and that a substantial portion of its recorded unlocking charges since 2013 occurred on accounts that are now cancelled with an outstanding unpaid amount.

Source: Rogers

Fido

Fee: $50.

Guidelines: Your account must be in good standing and must be 90 days past activation on a subsidized agreement or registered on your account if purchased outright with no term. If you purchased your device from a third party, it must have been registered in your account more than 90 days ago.

Comment: Rogers and Fido issued a joint statement, shown above.

Source: Fido

Telus

Fee: $50 but may vary depending on service agreement.

Guidelines: Device is not flagged as lost or stolen, for a subsidized device with a device balance, it must be active on the Telus network for a minimum of 90 days. For a device purchased outright or without an outstanding Device Balance, no restrictions (the device can be unlocked immediately by paying the applicable fee). For postpaid accounts, the account must be active. For prepaid accounts, there must be a credit balance available to cover the unlocking fee.

Comment: “Telus was the first national wireless carrier to offer unlocking, based on customer input that some wanted the option. Clearly it is a choice Canadians are taking advantage of, which speaks to just how competitive Canada’s wireless market is. Unlocking is just one of dozens of changes we have made since 2009 based on customer input, such as re-writing contracts in plain language and replacing contract cancellation fees with device balances. We offer unlocking at a modest fee, taking into account the costs of providing this very manual service.”

Source: Telus

Koodo

Fee: $50.

Guidelines: Your account must be active and in good standing with no negative Tab balance and active on the network for at least 90 days. Prepaid phones must have enough credit to pay for the unlocking fee. CDMA phones cannot be unlocked.

Source: Koodo

Freedom Mobile

Fee: $30.

Comment: “Freedom Mobile currently charges $30 to unlock phones. We came to that number because there are operational costs — it’s a relatively complicated process and the customer generally has to call our call centre twice when they want to unlock their phone. If phones were unlocked for the entire industry, that operational cost would no longer exist.

For us, it’s a competitive risk to be the only carrier who unlocks phones for free. Without an unlock fee we could become the target of other carriers targeting our customers to switch to them, but we wouldn’t have that same opportunity to attract customers to us. That’s why we feel this needs to be an industry initiative. It creates a level playing field, with customers winning. To us, it seems that industry-wide unlocked phones provide a better solution than having the CRTC regulate the rates and rules for unlocking.

The combination of operational costs and competitive reasons is why we charge the $30 fee. We continue to be, by far, the carrier with the least expensive unlocking fees.”

Source: Freedom Mobile

Videotron

Fee: $50 fee will appear on your next billing statement.

Guidelines: If you don’t have a Videotron account, you must pay in-store. The phone must have been sold by Videotron
the unlock code applies to mobile phones and mobile Internet devices (where possible).

Your account must be in good standing. If subsidized, it must be active for at least ninety days or if purchased at retail price it must be registered to your account. The device must not have been declared lost or stolen.

Source: Videotron

SaskTel

Fee: $50, though SaskTel says it will waive the unlocking fee in specific situations, dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Guidelines: The process can be initiated in-store or over the phone, but is different for different phones, check the carrier’s website for additional information.

Comment: “The unlocking fee covers the internal costs incurred to administer and provide the unlock code service. Some of those costs include:

• Development and maintenance of databases to house unlock code data

• Establishment and ongoing maintenance of integration with OEM systems (as required)

• Customer service to process the original unlock request

• Customer support for those customers requiring further assistance to complete the unlock successfully.”

The carrier also notes, on the subject of customers benefiting from an unlocked device: “Customers usage habits and needs will vary from one customer to the next. The importance of an unlocked device and subsequent benefits recognized will also vary. Not every customer desires or has a need to have an unlocked device.”

Source: SaskTel

MTS

Fee: $50.

Guidelines: Current and prior MTS customers are eligible to unlock if their account is in good standing and has no outstanding balance.

Devices that are subsidized must be at least 90 days into their current wireless contract and off contract devices must have no outstanding balance on their current or cancelled account. If no active account exists user must provide device Bill of Sale. Prepaid customers need an account balance of at least $50. Device must not be not listed as lost or stolen.

Source: MTS

Eastlink

Fee: $50.

Comment: The east coast regional carrier pointed MobileSyrup towards its comments made during the Wireless Code Review, which state that it supports comments filed by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) on the Coalition’s proposal regarding (among other things) unlocking devices prior to the end of the 90-day period for subsidized devices.

Those comments, made on the 16th of November, 2016, take an opposing view to much of what is proposed by Freedom and the consumer interest groups advocating for abolishing unlocking fees, stating: “Today’s smartphones can retail for more than $1,000 and device subsidies routinely exceed $500.

Service providers need to protect themselves against fraud and losses when issuing contracts and when unlocking devices. Credit checks, security deposits and requiring accounts to be in good standing before unlocking are some protectionary measures. The Wireless Code should not take such rights away from service providers.”

The full comments can be found here.

Source: Mobile Syrup

NBCUniversal invests $500 million in Snap

NBCUniversal invests $500 million in Snap

NBCUniversal is now the only U.S. media company that has an official stake in Snap. Today, NBC Universal (which is a unit of Comcast) revealed that it invested $500 million in Snap as a strategic investment partnership during yesterday’s IPO.

Snap shares popped 44 percent in the first day of trading.

NBCUniversal has been pursuing digital media aggressively in the past year, including investments in Buzzfeed, Vox, and acquisitions of SportsEngine and Awesomeness TV. According to CNBC, NBC has spent approximately $1.5 billion on digital media assets in the last 18 months.

While Snapchat has continued to grow in popularity among teens and young adults — partially through funny photo filters and stylish recording sunglasses called Spectacles — the company’s content push hasn’t been quite as well-received.

Discover, Snapchat’s ‘news’ platform, requires publishers to write and format content specifically for Snapchat, and all of these stories have only 24 hours to live on the platform before disappearing.

The investment from NBC Universal may signal changes to Snap’s media strategy.

Given the current climate around the media — cough Fake News! cough — it would be interesting to see Snapchat position itself against Facebook as the place for ‘verified’ news information. Imagine if Discover focused on giving you direct access to journalists and broadcasters for their professional take on today’s breaking news.

Of course, NBCUniversal could have invested in Snap as a way to move forward its entertainment businesses, such as NBC programming and Universal Studios films.

That seems far more likely than the news play, considering that NBC has already worked with Snap for projects like the Rio Olympics, with other series (such as SNL, The Voice, and more), which are in the works to air on Snapchat.

Update: Re/code has obtained a memo from NBCU CEO Steve Burke sent to employees regarding the investment:

I am writing to share some exciting news. Yesterday, NBCUniversal made a strategic investment of $500 million in Snap as part of its initial public offering. This is a significant milestone in our growing partnership with Snap, and we look forward to participating in Snap’s success as an investor and continuing to work closely with them for years to come.

Evan Spiegel and his talented team have done an outstanding job building Snap into an extremely innovative and relevant company, attracting a massive, dedicated and young audience. Over the last year, we have partnered with Snap frequently. Most notably, we produced a pop-up Discover channel which featured Olympic content produced by BuzzFeed. Throughout the Rio Games, this content generated over two billion views. On the heels of that success, we are already planning an expanded partnership with Snapchat and BuzzFeed for the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. Our entertainment programs have been among the first shows to launch a Snapchat series, including The Voice, SNL and E! News’ The Rundown. We expect to launch even more Snapchat shows with additional NBCU brands in the coming weeks.

Our partnership with Snap builds on our strategy to drive digital growth for our business, both organically and through investments and acquisitions. In the last year and a half, we have invested $400 million in BuzzFeed, $200 million in Vox, and launched key initiatives with both companies. We also acquired SportsEngine, a digital business that is revolutionizing the way youth sports are managed online.

Through our acquisition of DreamWorks, we became a majority owner of Awesomeness TV, a popular entertainment brand with one of the top channels on YouTube. Fandango has acquired Flixster, Rotten Tomatoes and several ticketing and video on-demand services.

In addition to these investments, in the last year we have launched two OTT channels — Seeso and Hayu — broadening our reach among passionate, niche audiences. We also formed the Digital Enterprises group under Maggie Suniewick. Maggie and her team are helping us forge deeper partnerships with major platforms, as well as looking for opportunities to invest and create new businesses.

Many of our existing digital businesses associated with our TV brands are also showing strong growth, such as NBC Entertainment, NBC News, E!, CNBC, NBC Sports and the Golf Channel’s GolfNow. Finally, we have participated in the rapid growth of Hulu through our 30 percent ownership stake.

I am proud of the strides we have made in the digital space recently. With the Snap investment, we have invested over $1.5 billion in promising digital businesses in the last 18 months. Importantly, we have become a better, more digitally-focused company as a result.

Looking forward, we will continue to be aggressive as digital content consumption increases. Investing in Snap is a key step in that direction, and I am pleased to share this exciting news with you. It is rare to have the opportunity to invest at this stage in a company as visionary and dynamic as Snap, and it is a compliment that they chose NBCU as a partner.

Steve

Source: Tech Crunch

How much cellular and Wi-Fi data are smartphone users consuming, and with which apps?

How much cellular and Wi-Fi data are smartphone users consuming, and with which apps?

 It’s clear that, thanks to unlimited data offers and the falling cost of the GB, wireless customers can now access more content on their phones at faster speeds than ever before. But what exactly are they doing on their phones, how much data are they chewing through, and which networks are they using to do it?
Apple just sued a key iPhone partner for $1 billion

Apple just sued a key iPhone partner for $1 billion

Apple just did the unthinkable: The tech giant is suing Qualcomm, which makes the iPhone’s baseband processor — the smartphone’s modem for connecting to mobile networks — to the tune of $1 billion.

First reported by CNBC, the lawsuit accuses Qualcomm of withholding payments to Apple in “retaliation” for cooperating with investigators and portrays the San Diego-based chip company as an extortionist over basic smartphone technology.

Apple’s move is related to another legal action from earlier this week, when the FTC filed an antitrust lawsuit against the Qualcomm, alleging it was using its patents to strong-arm competitors into paying exorbitant royalties, even for devices that don’t use Qualcomm-made components.

Apple was prominently named in the FTC lawsuit, which also alleges Qualcomm pressured Apple in specific ways to guarantee it would use its modem tech exclusively for a five-year period, from 2011 to 2016. The agreement essentially shut out every other manufacturer of baseband processors from the world’s most popular smartphone, which the lawsuit says unfairly hampered their development. (With the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple began producing some iPhones with Intel modems.)

Apple casts Qualcomm as a lazy company that no longer innovates because its business is built around “older, legacy technologies”

In Apple’s statement about its own lawsuit, the company says Qualcomm has been charging royalties “for technologies they have nothing to do with.” Apple casts Qualcomm as a lazy company that no longer innovates because its business is built around “older, legacy technologies” and that it collects many royalties “for no reason” — essentially accusing the chipmaker of being a patent troll.

Apple specifically accuses Qualcomm of withholding “nearly $1 billion” in payments in an act of corporate revenge against Apple, since it cooperated with “law enforcement agencies” tasked with investigating the chipmaker. Those investigations are what likely led to the FTC lawsuit.

Apple also gave some detail on just how large Qualcomm’s royalties are. According to the company’s statement, the royalties Qualcomm collects on the iPhone are five times those of the device’s other “cellular patent licensors” combined.

Apple’s lawsuit offers a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes dealmaking that goes into building the world’s most popular tech products. While lawsuits over designs and patents happen occasionally, the world’s most valuable company going after one of its own partners, especially one as important to the iPhone as Qualcomm, was something few could have predicted.

The lawsuit will certainly have reverberations in the wireless industry for years to come, and could lead to big changes in the cellular modem market as 5G technology — the successor to 4G LTE — takes hold. In 2016, Qualcomm held a whopping 65 percent of the market for mobile baseband modems (and 50 percent of the revenue), figures that will likely tumble as these lawsuits proceed and competitors pounce.

In addition, considering Apple has already begun to use competing modems in the iPhone 7, the incendiary tone of Apple’s statement implies Apple will show Qualcomm the door for the iPhone 8, expected to be unveiled in the fall.

Representatives for Qualcomm didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple’s full statement, sent to Mashable, is below, followed by the full legal filing:

For many years Qualcomm has unfairly insisted on charging royalties for technologies they have nothing to do with. The more Apple innovates with unique features such as TouchID, advanced displays, and cameras, to name just a few, the more money Qualcomm collects for no reason and the more expensive it becomes for Apple to fund these innovations.  Qualcomm built its business on older, legacy, standards but reinforces its dominance through exclusionary tactics and excessive royalties. Despite being just one of over a dozen companies who contributed to basic cellular standards, Qualcomm insists on charging Apple at least five times more in payments than all the other cellular patent licensors we have agreements with combined.

To protect this business scheme Qualcomm has taken increasingly radical steps, most recently withholding nearly $1B in payments from Apple as retaliation for responding truthfully to law enforcement agencies investigating them.

Apple believes deeply in innovation and we have always been willing to pay fair and reasonable rates for patents we use. We are extremely disappointed in the way Qualcomm is conducting its business with us and unfortunately after years of disagreement over what constitutes a fair and reasonable royalty we have no choice left but to turn to the courts.

Apple Complaint Redacted by mashablescribd on Scribd

Source: Mashable

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