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Japan phone service providers to be required to unlock used smartphones

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan plans to require mobile phone service providers to unlock second-hand smartphones, enabling them to be used on any network, government sources said Wednesday.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is looking to require the country's three largest carriers -- NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp., and SoftBank Corp. -- to remove so-called SIM locks, which limit use of smartphones to a specific network, on used devices starting next July, the sources said.

The move is aimed at giving consumers the ability to more freely choose between carriers, and is expected to boost the popularity of mobile virtual network operators that offer cheaper alternatives to the major carriers, which together hold nearly 90 percent of the domestic market.

In 2015, the ministry began requiring carriers to unlock smartphones several months after purchase, but had not set similar rules for second-hand devices.

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