USA investigating AT&T and Verizon over eSIM collusion

AT&T, Verizon under DoJ antitrust investigation for possible eSIM collusion, report says

Verizon, AT&T fall on report DOJ is probing collusion (updated)

In a report from The New York Times, details include the possibility that Verizon and AT&T (the top two United States wireless carriers) were also working to block eSIM tech with the mobile industry standards group, the GSMA.

Sprint declined to comment, and representatives for Verizon, T-Mobile and the GSMA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Department and AT&T declined to comment on the report and Verizon could not be immediately reached for comment. The eSIM standard lets wireless subscribers move their phone number to a new carrier without having to. 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.

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The probe is also looking into whether industry standards organization GSMA was part of the collusion.

"In the context of antitrust and IP, we will be inclined to investigate and enforce when we see evidence of collusive conduct undertaken for the objective of fixing prices, or excluding particular competitors or products", Delrahim said in a speech this month at a conference in Washington, D.C. He previously warned of the potential for "cartellike behavior" by competitors that got together with standards-setting organizations. Verizon closed down 1.1 percent to $47.90 after losing as much as 2.5 percent. Investigators from the Justice Department reportedly issued demands for information from AT&T, Verizon, and the GSMA in February. Under eSIM, user identification technology of a traditional SIM card is instead transferred to the device's processor or modem itself. "Incumbent firms have shown themselves willing to use every tool at their disposal to block competition". 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.

Apple rolled out the technology with some of its latest iPad models in 2016, but has thus far not introduced it in smartphones. On its website, Apple says, "if you buy one of these models at a carrier, the embedded Apple SIM might be locked to that carrier or disabled".

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AT&T acknowledged the eSIM investigation in a statement. Alphabet Inc.'s Google added the feature to its latest Pixel phones previous year, while other phone makers internationally are known to be working on devices with the eSIM functionality.

The investigation was opened about five month ago, the Times reported. AT&T and Time Warner have strongly disputed the claims in a federal trial that is expected to end this month.

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