Saying the practice discourages users from switching carriers, the UK's Ofcom regulatory body has ruled that all phones will have to be sold unlocked from late 2021.
Ofcom, the UK regulator expected to auction 5G's 700MHz spectrum in early 2021, has announced that it is to ban the sale of phones that are locked to certain carriers. From December 2021, all UK phones must be sold unlocked.
The announcement comes 11 months after Ofcom published its plan to introduce such a ban, with the only new detail being the date. Speaking at the launch of the plan in December 2019, Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom's Consumer Group Director, said that currently "Switching mobile provider can be really frustrating."
"By freeing mobile users from locked handsets, our plans would save people time, effort and money — and help them unlock a better deal," she continued.
According to BBC News, UK networks had previously argued that locking phones helped to deter theft and fraud. However, possibly to comply with existing EU rules, four of the UK's major carriers already only sell unlocked phones.
Those are O2 — the UK's original iPhone carrier — plus Sky, Three, and Virgin. The remaining carriers are BT and its EE division, Vodafone, and Tesco Mobile.
"We stand ready to implement these changes when they come into force," Vodafone told BBC News. EE says it will work with Ofcom to comply.