Legal Policies

U.S. Cellular® Device Unlocking Policy

U.S. Cellular® as a participating carrier in the CTIA's "Consumer Code for Wireless Service" has voluntarily agreed to unlock handsets and tablets (hereinafter referred to as "devices") certain circumstances described below beginning on May 11, 2014. "Unlocking" devices describes the disabling of any software on a device that would prevent a device from being used on any compatible network. Some current devices are not eligible to be unlocked because of the age of the device or because there is not technology readily available to permit the device to be used on any other compatible network. Devices capable of being unlocked are listed below. U.S Cellular will add additional devices over time with the goal being that every device sold after February 11, 2015 will be capable of being unlocked under the appropriate circumstances. It is important for consumers to know that an unlocked device is not an assurance that such device will;

  • operate on any other carrier's network due to technical differences between carriers networks (for example, U.S. Cellular operates a CDMA network while some carriers operate GSM networks which are incompatible)
  • or, if it does operate on another network, perform all of the functions that it performed on the U.S. Cellular network
  • be accepted by any carrier for use on their network even if the device is compatible with that network to some degree.

What devices are eligible for unlocking?

All 1X and 3G devices are capable of being unlocked. Here is the list of 4G devices that, as of May 11, 2014, are capable of being unlocked;

  • Samsung Galaxy S3 Smartphone
  • Motorola Moto X Smartphone
  • Motorola Electrify M Smartphone
  • Apple iPad Mini Tablet
  • Apple iPad Air Tablet
  • Apple iPad Mini w/Retina Tablet
  • Apple iPad w/Retina Display

U.S Cellular hopes to add to this list over time as our equipment manufacturers provide unlocking solutions for other devices. Our goal is that by no later than February 11, 2015 that every handset and tablet device we sell thereafter will be capable of being unlocked.

For devices capable of being unlocked are there any eligibility requirements that need to be satisfied before a device may be unlocked?

Yes. Postpaid customers seeking to unlock a device must satisfy all of these requirements;

  • Completed the contractual obligations for the account to which the device was assigned such as by expiration of the term of the service agreement or payment of any applicable early termination fee or payment of the device under any financing contract. Devices for which the customer paid the retail price without a contractual term commitment can be unlocked at any time.
  • Current customers must not have any past due balance and former customers must have no outstanding account balances or prior write offs.

Prepaid customers may have a pre-paid device unlocked any time after 12 months from the first activation of the device sought to be unlocked on the U.S. Cellular network

Non-Customers seeking to have a U.S. Cellular device unlocked may do so but U.S. Cellular reserves the right to refuse any unlocking request if U.S. Cellular has reason to believe that the request is fraudulent.

Military Personal may have the device assigned to their account unlocked upon presentment of deployment papers for locations outside of the U.S. Cellular operating areas such as overseas provided the account has no past due balance.

U.S. Cellular will not unlock any device that has been reported lost or stolen or for which U.S. Cellular has reason to believe is an attempt by the requestor to commit fraud. Requests to unlock devices assigned to current accounts must be made by the account owner or an authorized user.

What is the procedure for unlocking my device?

1X and 3G eligible devices may be unlocked at company owned or agent operated stores or by calling us at 888-944-9400. Because of the difficulty in unlocking some of our 4G devices you must bring these devices to a company owned store and we will either unlock the device for you or send it to a vendor who will perform the task and then have the device returned to the store. We hope to expand the capabilities of unlocking 4G devices to other distribution locations in the near future. You can call us at 888-944-9400 or your local U.S. Cellular store to determine the closest location to you that can handle your unlocking request. There is no charge for unlocking an individual device but U.S Cellular does reserve the right to charge non - customers a reasonable fee for unlocking any bulk requests for unlocking eligible devices.

How long will it take to have my eligible device unlocked?

Most devices can be unlocked on the spot but some 4G devices will need to be sent to an outside vendor to have the task performed. If the device needs to be sent to an outside vendor we will have the request processed as soon as is practical but you should plan on at least 3 or 4 days before the device can be unlocked and returned to the company owned store that processed your request.