The Verizon ships all iPhone 5 unlocked that can work on AT&T’s network or any other supporting GSM network worldwide. And, in future, like Sprint iPhone 4S last year, VZW iPhone 5 will not be locked. The confirmation came from a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Brenda Raney, when various technology journalists reached out to the carrier after Jeff demoed AT&T SIM working on Verizon iPhone 5.

Now this means, in-contract Verizon customers can insert an AT&T nano SIM in the iPhone and it’ll work out of the box. These unlocked iPhone 5 units won’t connect on the AT&T’s carrier’s LTE service, but it will work fine on the 3G network. You should also be able to hop on T-Mobile’s 3G networks in some selected areas where the carrier has reframed its spectrum, though we haven’t tested it yet.

With unlocked iPhone 5 on AT&T SIM, VZW customers can roam internationally, but will be limited on AT&T’s default 3G connection should they take their phone outside of the US, Canada, or Mexico. But, since Verizon’s iPhone 5 is supporting a total of five LTE bands to AT&T’s two, Verizon’s iPhone 5 does best AT&Ts by allowing users to roam internationally on 4G LTE speeds. However, AT&T iPhone 5 owners (contract with AT&T) will enjoy 4G LTE speeds inCanadawhen the Verizon-based iPhone 5s will not – again, a result of the supported LTE bands across the two devices.

Why Verizon is offering iPhone 5 in an unlocked state?

Java developer / photographer James Duncan Davidson did some digging to find out why Verizon is offering the iPhone 5 in an unlocked state? He cited a thread in Howard Forums Mobile Community with a post from Mikey Silver noting that federal regulations require Verizon to sell the LTE iPhone unlocked (since vzw is using the 700 Mhz Upper C block of spectrum).

I’ve been reading up on the open access provisions in regards to the C-Block of 700 MHz LTE spectrum. There is a very specific line saying that a licensee (Verizon) cannot configure devices to be locked against use on another network. This means that Verizon would be violating Federal law if the iPhone 5′s sim slot is even partially locked. Unlike on the iPhone 4S – these regulations mean that Verizon must even allow an AT&T SIM card to be used in any Verizon iPhone 5.

The forums thread points to Title 47, Part 27, Subpart B, Section 27.16 of the Code of Federal Regulations. In a nutshell, for devices that operate in the 700 MHz C block – which Verizon paid $9.4 billion dollars in 2008 for a license to use for their new LTE network – the following paragraph applies:

(e) Handset locking prohibited. No licensee may disable features on handsets it provides to customers; to the extent such features are compliant with the licensee’s standards pursuant to paragraph

(b) of this section, nor configure handsets it provides to prohibit use of such handsets on other providers’ networks.

But then the million dollar question is – why Verizon is selling its Android LTE phones locked to its network? What do you think? Why Verizon is offering unlocked iPhone 5? Just to lure customers to chose Verizon over rival AT&T?

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  • Maristella

    When I’ve read that Brenda Raney mentioned that Verizon don’t have plans to relock iPhone 5 I was thinking it will be impossible. Good call FCC.