USA investigating AT&T and Verizon over eSIM collusion

Posted April 22, 2018

The feds are looking into whether AT&T and Verizon along with an worldwide standards body have been in cahoots to make it hard for people to switch carriers, according to a report from the New York Times.

Six anonymous sources tell the New York Times that the inquiry was launched back in February to determine if the nation's two biggest carriers had colluded with the industry standards body to hamstring the development of eSIM, a technology that's supposed to make it much easier to switch carriers in a matter of seconds.

The Justice Department is looking into whether the two wireless carriers worked with the GSMA to thwart a technology known as eSIM, which lets people remotely switch wireless providers without having to swap out a SIM card.

Verizon and AT&T organized a meeting with the G.S.M.A earlier this year, with the goal of gaining the ability to lock phones to their networks, regardless of eSIM.

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At issue is a technology that could make carriers' business more volatile.

"The reality is that we have a difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of e-SIM standards", Verizon spokesman Rich Young said to The Wall Street Journal.

Apple and Samsung have both been pushing the telecom industry to adopt eSIM technology.

The eSIM technology is supported by gadget makers including Apple, Google and Microsoft, as well as several wireless carriers globally and in the United States.

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We are aware of the investigation into GSMA's process for developing eSIM standards that provide a better experience for consumers.

The investigation comes as the Justice Department is suing AT&T to block its $85 billion merger with Time Warner.

Aside from being much smaller than current nano-SIM cards, eSIM would let customers switch from one carrier to another with nearly as much ease as one switches from one email address to another.

The source said the Obama administration had investigated similar claims in 2016 but did not take any action. Delrahim has said the deal will hurt competition and lead to higher prices for cable customers. The investigation may also include other major American carriers, another person said.

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