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T-Mobile Pulls Fast One On FCC, Extends Metro’s Unlock Policy To 365 Days Post-Mint Mobile Acquisition

On 4/23/24, T-Mobile informed the FCC that if it were allowed to acquire Mint Mobile and Ultra Mobile it would immediately change the device unlock policy for each brand to 60 days. On 4/25/24, T-Mobile received approval from the FCC to acquire the brands, and the deal was closed on 5/1/24. The device unlock policies for Mint Mobile and Ultra Mobile have remained unchanged since their acquisition. According to their policies (Mint,Ultra), phones bought at a discounted price can only be unlocked 12 months after activation, while devices purchased at full retail price can be unlocked after 60 days. This is still consistent with T-Mobile's promise that they'd make the change within 60 days of closing which would put the date by June 30, 2024.

However, just days after closing, several readers reached out to BestMVNO by various methods to send a tip about a policy change at Metro by T-Mobile. Metro by T-Mobile updated its device unlock policy to 365 days. As seen by this Wayback Machine capture on May 5, 2024, the device unlock policy had been 180 days. It seems T-Mobile has pulled a fast one on the FCC.

Metro by T-Mobiles Device Unlock Policy New (Top) Vs Old (Bottom)

Mint Mobile and Ultra Mobile traditionally have been more focused on supporting bring-your-own-device customers than selling phones. Metro by T-Mobile on the other hand has a much stronger focus on selling phones to customers primarily through its dealers with a wide variety of free phone offers. Some phones are also available at Walmart, and earlier this year, Metro began to offer free phones online to switchers. This is a significant difference, as T-Mobile's proposed policy changes will impact Metro by T-Mobile customers far more than Mint Mobile and Ultra Mobile. This is compounded by the fact that there are roughly eight times more Metro by T-Mobile customers than Mint Mobile and Ultra Mobile have combined. Changing Metro's device unlock policy from 180 days to 365 days can be viewed as anti-competitive as encourages customers to stay with Metro by T-Mobile for longer because they can't take their Metro phones to use with another carrier until they are unlocked.

I think this was a sneaky maneuver by T-Mobile and consequently, the FCC may want to pay more attention to the supposed sale of UScellular assets which T-Mobile is said to be closing in on a deal to buy $2 billion worth.

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