This weekend, a new policy will start which would make it illegal for mobile phone owners to unlock their devices for use on other carriers unless it was authorized by their carriers. The policy will go towards newly purchased devices started on Saturday, but not legacy devices purchased prior to that date. When someone unlocks their device, it will allow them to use phones on other carriers by using SIM cards from international carriers while traveling abroad without having to buy expensive international roaming packages from domestic carriers.
In October 2012, the Librarian of Congress, who determines exemptions to a strict anti-hacking law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), decided that unlocking mobile phones would no longer be allowed. But the librarian provided a 90-day window during which people could still buy a phone and unlock it. That window closes on January 26.
Unlocked iPhones can be bought at an unsubsidized price. This past April, AT&T starting unlocking iPhones for customers whose contract was completed otherwise pay early termination fees (ETFs). SIM card slots on the Verizon iPhone 5 are unlocked and Sprint said that they would unlock SIM card slots on iPhones for international usage after 3 months.
[Tech News Daily via MacRumors]