22 June 2000

Following criticism that it was impeding free access to the internet via WAP-enabled cellphones [WAMN, 19-Jun-00], BT Cellnet has conceded the issue and offered to provide customers with a four-digit code to ‘unlock’ their phones.

The move implicitly acknowledges a complaint by rival portal Fonedata to UK telecoms watchdog, Oftel, charging that BTC had re-programmed its best-selling Mitsubishi Trium/Geo handsets to connect only to its own Genie internet portal, thereby preventing customers from using competing portals.

Yesterday, BTC said it had instructed its customer helpline to provide details of the unlocking code, but claimed the information had always been available on request. No other WAP models require such a code. [Contacting the BTC helpline, which is outsourced to a third party contractor, may require considerable patience as it is frequently under such pressure that long delays before connection to an agent are common].

BT Cellnet continues to deny that it was responsible for the locking: "It is the manufacturer who decides whether a code is needed to change the portal," said a BT spoke. Mitsubishi, however, insists it had been instructed by BTC to 'lock' the phones, saying that none of the phones sold to other suppliers were programmed in this way.

News source: Financial Times