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printed April 20, 2014
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MSL

(Master Subsidy Lock)

A numeric code (password) that prevents a user from accessing certain technical settings of a phone. It is specifically designed to prevent a phone from being reprogrammed to work with a different carrier (service provider).

MSL is relevant only to certain types of phones, such as CDMA phones. Other types of phones may have a similar type of code that goes by a different name.

This is what is usually meant when a phone is referred to as "locked". There are also "unlocked" phones that can be reprogrammed to work with a different carrier.

The reason for this system is the way phones are often sold. Many phones are sold below cost, (at a loss to the carrier,) with the expectation that the money will be recouped in the cost of the monthly service plan. The up-front loss that is later recouped is called a Subsidy.

For this to work financially for the carrier, the user must not buy the phone and then use it with a different carrier. The MSL makes that nearly impossible.

Unlocked phones are ususally much more expensive than locked phones, because there is no subsidy to offset the cost.

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