Last fall, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications set guidelines for “unlocking” mobile phones. Until now, in principle, a handset sold by one of Japan’s three main mobile communications companies — NTT Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank — could only be used for that particular service, meaning if you wanted to switch companies, you had to buy a new one.

The guidelines were to go into effect at the beginning of May. The changes will only affect new phones, and they can only be unlocked — at no charge if done online — for their original owners. Moreover, customers of each company will have to wait six months after purchasing their phones to get them unlocked.

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