May 25, 2018

AT&T, Verizon Under Investigation Over Alleged eSIM Collusion

22 April 2018, 01:46 | Yvette Williams

Department of Justice in Washington Bill Clark

Department of Justice

Complaints were filed with the Department of Justice several months ago, prompting the investigation, the sources told NYT. The newspaper cites six people with knowledge of the inquiry and alleges the wireless carriers worked in coordination to make it more hard for people to switch carriers.

It's being reported this afternoon that the Justice Department had reached out to all four major USA wireless carriers as part of an antitrust investigation.

That would have been accomplished by thwarting "eSIM" technology, which lets people remotely switch providers without inserting a new SIM card into their device.

In an email to Fox 5, the Justice Department would neither confirm nor deny the investigation.

Carriers like AT&T and Verizon have increasingly been losing subscribers to T-Mobile, thanks to more consumer friendly policies ranging from cheaper worldwide roaming to the elimination of hidden fees and long-term contracts.

A Verizon spokesperson called the investigation "much ado about nothing", brushing off the matter as little more than a "difference of opinion" regarding eSIM standards. A technology that made it easy to switch carriers could lead to more turnover and fewer subscribers for them. The DOJ's investigation could show that the companies along with the GSMA were trying to influence the development of this technology in order to maintain their market dominance.

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MacRumors covered Apple Watch 3 with LTE and eSIM cards having problems with AT&T going back to last September.

As it is, carriers around the world and in the United States in particular already hold an overwhelming power over consumers, often charging ridiculously high fees to purchase and activate a new SIM card.

The source said the Obama administration had investigated similar claims in 2016 but did not take any action.

In a private meeting this year of a task force called GSMA North America, AT&T and Verizon pushed for the ability to lock phones to their networks, bypassing the goal of eSIM technology, said Harold Feld, a senior vice president of Public Knowledge, a nonprofit consumer group, who was briefed on the meeting.

He previously warned of the potential for "cartel-like behavior" by competitors that got together with standards-setting organizations.

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