Most devices are what's called 'locked' to the network. (This is different to 'blocked' phones!)
This means the device will usually only work on that particular providers network. So for example, you've had a phone on contract with Vodafone then after your contract has ended, you buy a SIM-only deal with say O2, but the O2 SIM will not work in your device as Vodafone have locked it to their network.
You may also need to get your handset unlocked if you want to use a local SIM card in your handset when travelling abroad to avoid roaming charges.
There are only four (4) mobile networks in the UK and it is usually one of these providers that you need to contact to get your phone unlocked. There are lots and lots of other so called mobile operators such as GiffGaff, Lebara, Tesco, Sky, Virgin etc! But these are 'virtual mobile operators' - they tend to buy packages from the 'big 4' and resell them. So whatever network you are on, you will be using one of the 4 mobile networks.
These providers are: O2, Vodafone, EE, Three
(Remember, T-Mobile and Orange now fit under the EE banner)
Here is my advice regarding unlocking of your phone.
- Firstly, if you have an existing relationship with the provider the phone is locked to (for example, if you are with O2 and have upgraded to another O2 phone), just call the provider and they will usually unlock your old phone for free
- O2 will do an unlock for free if you have a contract with them (there are conditions with this free unlock). Pay-as-you-go will cost you £15 (only after 12 months). But the process still requires you to have some form of relationship with O2. If you have purchased a 2nd hand phone or have a hand-me-down, then you can only really do an unlock using a service like mine. For O2, follow this link.
- Vodafone are the worst network to unlock from. You either need to be a contract customer or a PAYG customer. If you are neither and have purchased a 2nd hand phone or have an hand-me-down, then you'll need to do an unlock through me. For Vodafone follow this link.
- EE now carry out unlocks for free. Just click on this link to take you to the EE page where you can submit your IMEI and get a free unlock. And best of all, this process is immediate! If the phone was purchased after 1st September 2015, the phone will automatically unlock after 18 months.
- Three phone are usually already unlocked if the phone was purchased after 1st January 2014. If it is not unlocked, Three will unlock it for free - follow this link.
So, you've purchased a second-hand device or you've got an hand-me-down?
If none of the above work for you and you just want to get an unlock on your device, I can do that for you.
Please refer to my unlock page for details of what phones and networks can be unlocked, and also costs involved.