Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Jessica Rosenworcel (pictured) pitched new rules requiring operators to unlock customers’ phones within 60 days of activation, which would make it easier for them to switch providers.

Mobile phones are generally locked to service providers’ networks until subscribers’ contracts expire or they pay off some or all of the device costs.

Rosenworcel explained the new rules would “establish a clear and uniform set of requirements for all mobile service providers” to unlock phones.

“Real competition benefits from transparency and consistency. That is why we are proposing clear, nationwide mobile phone unlocking rules.”

The FCC stated unlocking phones could increase consumer choice and competition in the wireless service provider marketplace, but the rules will likely face stiff opposition from operators.

Commissioners will vote on the proposal to unlock phones at a meeting on 18 July. If they approve the move, the FCC will then seek comments on the rules and whether the unlocking requirement should be applied to existing or future tariffs.

The FCC also wants comments on the impact of a 60-day unlocking requirement in connection with operators’ incentives to offer discounted phones.

It also seeks to determine “whether an unlocking requirement would benefit smaller providers, new entrants and resellers by increasing the number of phones available on the secondary market”.