Sprint Nextel to Unlock Phone Software

In an age of frivolous lawsuits, wireless subscribers of Sprint Nextel may actually be happy to hear that, as part of a proposed class-action settlement, the cellular provider has agreed to provide departing Sprint PCS customers with the code necessary to unlock their phones' software. The move would allow the phones to operate on any network using code division multiple access technology, or CDMA; competitors using that technology include Verizon Wireless and Alltel, although the Sprint handset would still have to meet those networks' technical standards to work. Additionally, the codes won't work for Sprint's Nextel-branded phones, which use iDEN technology, and don't allow switching to AT&T or T-Mobile, which use global system for mobile communication, or GSM, technology.

Sprint made the offer as part of the proposed settlement of a California class-action lawsuit, filed last year, accusing the company of anti-competitive practices. The plaintiffs claimed the software "lock" forced customers wanting to switch carriers to have to buy a new phone, throwing up a barrier to competition. A similar lawsuit was filed in Palm Beach County, Fla., and is covered by the proposed settlement. Though an Alameda County Superior Court judge gave the settlement his preliminary approval on Oct. 2, a final approval hearing hasn't yet been scheduled, said Sprint Nextel spokesman Matt Sullivan. "We believe this settlement is fair and reasonable," he stated, adding that the company denies wrongdoing and settled the suit "so we can continue to focus on our business."

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