Verizon Leaving iPhone 5 SIM Slots Unlocked as Required by FCC Network Access Regulations

26th September 2012

Last week it was reported that the Verizon iPhone 5 is being sold with an unlocked SIM slot, allowing users with a nano-SIM or a trimmed micro-SIM from a GSM carrier such as AT&T to use the device on their networks. The Associated Press confirmed with Verizon that it will not remotely relock their iPhone 5 models. Last year, Verizon would only unlock their iPhone 4S models after 60 days.

It’s worth noting that though the Verizon iPhone 5 will work on AT&T and T-Mobile’s 3G network for voice and data, the phone will not work on AT&T’s LTE data network. It will work on a number of international LTE networks. Apple’s LTE information page details the bands that each specific model of iPhone 5 supports.

The main reason for the unlocked SIM card slot appears to be FCC network access requirements for Block C, the 700 MHz spectrum that Verizon uses for its LTE network. According to the FCC’s CFR Title 47 Part 27.16 paragraph (e):

(e) Handset locking prohibited. No licensee may disable features on handsets it provides to customers, to the extent such features are compliant with the licensee’s standards pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section, nor configure handsets it provides to prohibit use of such handsets on other providers’ networks.

Sprint iPhone 5 models are SIM-locked, but customers can request unlocking after three months for international use. AT&T’s existing unlock policy — to unlock off-contract phones only — remains in effect for the iPhone 5.