Your wireless carrier does not want you to leave. It likes your predictable monthly payments, and loves that you’re under contract for two years. The contract isn’t the only measure your carrier takes to retain its existing customers. It also locks handsets to its network. This, it hopes, makes you think twice about leaving. Who wants to pay for a new device, even when subsidized, when you have a perfectly good, working device already? Many people will stay with their current wireless carrier because of just this reason. Thankfully, this is not a necessity. If you feel your wireless carrier has wronged you, or else you just want to take your phone to another network, you might be in luck. There are ways to break the carrier’s lock on your BlackBerry. NOTE: Read all the way to the end for an incredible offer from BBGeeks and CarrierUnlock.com
What is unlocking?
To unlock a phone is to break your carrier’s hold over your phone. The phones you see in a major wireless carrier’s store or website will work only on that network. Even when your contract expires, you can’t bring that phone for activation on another network — unless you unlock it first, of course. That’s unlocking in a nutshell. It is the process whereby a phone, once locked to a single carrier, becomes compatible with all carriers of that type. And now to answer the inevitable question…
What network types support unlocking?
You can only unlock a GSM phone. AT&T and T-Mobile operate GSM networks in America. Rogers has a GSM network in Canada, and competitors Bell and Telus have recently launched GSM efforts. Most European carriers operate GSM networks as well. Verizon Wireless and Sprint, in addition to many regional carriers, operate CDMA networks. Both Bell and Telus operate CDMA networks in Canada. These carriers do not require SIM cards for their phones, which is the easiest way to tell the difference. CDMA phones cannot be unlocked in the traditional sense, though they can be reflashed for another network. This is another topic for another primer, however. As a rule of thumb, if your phone contains a SIM card it can be unlocked.
What are the benefits of an unlocked phone?
As mentioned above, the primary benefit of an unlocked phone is that it allows a user to bring the device to another network. For example, if you have a BlackBerry Bold through AT&T and switch to T-Mobile, you can bring the device with you if you unlock it first. This means you don’t have to spend money on a brand new handset, and can still enjoy most features of your new network. You can continue to switch among GSM carriers, taking your phone with you. All you need is a SIM card from the new carrier. You can also use an unlocked BlackBerry abroad, since it is the most common worldwide network type. You will have to make sure, though, that your device operates on the proper frequencies. In the U.S. and Canada, GSM operates on the 850 and 1900 bands, but in Europe it operates on the 900 and 1800 bands. To check your compatibility, look up your BlackBerry model on BlackBerry.com, or else find a site that lists phone specs, like Phone Scoop.
How to unlock a phone
The actual process of unlocking a BlackBerry is rather easy. As explained at BlackBerry FAQ, it mostly involves going into Options, Advanced Options, SIM Card, and then entering some codes. The difficult part, of course, is obtaining these numbers. We’ll start with the easiest, your IMEI. You can find this in Options, Status, under the battery, or by typing *#06# on the home screen (make sure home screen dialing is turned off). The other code the MEP, can be a bit tricky. You can call your wireless carrier and kindly ask them for it, and they might oblige. Then again, they might not. There doesn’t seem to be a set policy among carriers, so it could depend on which customer service rep you get that day. Most carriers, however, will give you a code if you are out of contract. Thankfully, there’s still hope if your carrier remains stingy. A bevy of sites offer unlock codes for your BlackBerry. Unlike your carrier, however, these sites will not hand you a code. You’ll have to pay anywhere from $10 to $50 for an unlock code, but for the most part you can find one for under $20 for most major carriers.
Downsides of unlocking
The main downside to unlocking a phone and taking it to a new carrier is the lack of support. While GSM carriers will allow unlocked phones on their networks, they typically will not provide support for them. So once you unlock your phone, you’re basically on your own if something goes wrong. You might also void the warranty on your phone by unlocking it. So if something happens to it, you might no longer be covered. Your new carrier also will not insure your unlocked phone. If something happens to it, it’s all on you. In addition, you might lose the ringtones and other downloadables from your previous carrier.
You might have some further concerns about unlocking your phone. Feel free to ask them in the comments, and we’ll do our best to answer. To answer a few up front: 1. You can continue upgrading your operating system as normal. You can still download an OS file from any carrier, as long as it is for your specific device (i.e., don’t install an 8320 OS if you have an 8310). You’ll use the same process as normal, downloading the OS from blackberry.com and using BlackBerry Desktop Manager to install it. 2. As long as you sign up fro the new carrier’s BlackBerry plan, all of your main features should continue working, including push email, web browsing, BBM, etc.
Now for the good stuff! How do FREE Unlock Codes sound?
Traditionally we have not spoken much about unlocking your BlackBerry here on BBGeeks. With this post, that all changes and the benefits will be reaped by you our loyal readers! I am pleased to announce that together with Carrierunlock.com, we are offering 75 FREE BlackBerry Unlock codes to be awarded to folks who participate in our mini contest.
The rules are simple
1) Either leave a comment on this post or 2) Tweet this message ” @BBGeeks has FREE BlackBerry Unlock codes up for grabs! RT this message for your chance to win one! ” This contest runs until 2pm EST on March 12th 2010 when I will pick the winners at random from among the folks who tweeted the message and those who left a comment on this post. Please use your real email address when commenting so I can contact you in the event of a win. NOTE:You can tweet the message as many times as you like for increased chances of winning but please only comment on the post once. I would rather not have the comments here turn into a spammy mess. Thanks As a special offer for those who do not get chosen as winners in this contest, CarrierUnlock.com has set up a discount code that will save you 25% off of your unlock fee when using the promo code: BBGeeks If that is not awesome I don’t know what is! You can use the promo code and purchase your unlock code from CarrierUnlock.com Good luck everyone!