Sunday, 19 August, 2018

AT&T, Verizon and GSMA being investigated over eSIM, NYT reports

Department of Justice Department of Justice in Washington Bill Clark
| 21 April, 2018, 13:52

News has broke this afternoon that the US Department of Justice has opened an investigation over antitrust concerns and potential collusion between Verizon and AT&T in efforts to prevent eSIM adoption and progress.

The investigation was opened about five months ago after at least one device maker and one wireless carrier filed formal complaints with the Justice Department, two of the people said. The device maker was Apple, one of them said.

DOJ, GSMA and AT&T declined to comment on the story.

Verizon repudiated the claim, arguing a "difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of eSIM standards", but has been working with the United States government on the inquiry.

Verizon and AT&T acknowledged the government probe and said they were working with regulators. The latter is a trade group that represents the interests of mobile carriers.

Simplifying the process of switching from one carrier to another - something eSIM technology will hopefully usher in - may result in consumers jumping to new carriers more frequently to take advantage of promotions.

It is common practice for the Justice Department to send CIDs, the civil equivalent of a subpoena, to all major players in the industry because the agency wants evidence from companies that allegedly participate in any conspiracy as well as those outside of it, according to Ethan Glass, a former trial attorney with the Justice Department now at the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP.


AT&T said it's aware of the investigation and has provided information to the government in response to its requests.

AT&T is already locked in a legal battle with the Justice Department over its plan to acquire Time Warner. The DOJ argues that the deal will hurt competition and lead to higher prices.

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

Apple has been including eSIM technology in its iPads for some time now, and began offering it with its Series 3 cellular Apple Watches as well. It would also make it easier for people to use their devices while traveling for business.

The antitrust division is looking into whether or not carriers colluded in stifling technology that allows customers to switch providers without having to change out their SIM card.

The person also said the Justice Department previously examined this matter in 2016, but ended up dropping the investigation.

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