U.S. DoJ Investigating AT&T and Verizon Over Claims of Collusion

According to a new report from The New York Times, AT&T and Verizon are being actively investigated by the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) over a claims of collusion.

Both telecoms, in addition to the G.S.M.A, a mobile standards-setting group, are being subject to an antitrust investigation over potential coordination to hinder customers from easily switching wireless carriers. The potential collusion is over a technology called eSIM, which lets people remotely switch carriers without having to get a new physical SIM card.

AT&T and Verizon are being accused of colluding with the G.S.M.A to try and establish a method that would allow them to lock a particular device to a carrier even if it’s using the eSIM technology.

The investigation was originally opened five months ago after at least one wireless carrier and at least one smartphone manufacturer filed formal complaints. One of the device manufacturers that reportedly filed a complaint is Apple.

An AT&T spokesperson said that the company is aware of the investigation and is working with the government to “move this issue forward.” In a statement, a Verizon spokesman said:

“[There seems to be] a difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of eSIM standards. [The issue was] much ado about nothing.”

During the duration of this investigation, the G.S.M.A has confirmed that they would put the developments of the method to lock a carrier to a device using eSIM on hold until a verdict is reached. In a statement, the organization said:

“The G.S.M.A. is cooperating fully with the Department of Justice in this matter.”

eSIM is gaining popularity among device manufacturers and consumers, with the Apple Watch Series 3, Google Pixel 2, and Microsoft Surface all supporting the technology. Locking down this technology would only make the wireless carriers have stronger control, reducing the possibilities of a healthy competitive wireless market in the United States.

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