Justice Department examining possible antitrust collusion by AT&T, Verizon to limit eSIM


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.

The agency in February sent civil investigative demands to major US wireless carriers and the GSMA, an worldwide standards organization responsible for eSIM technology, the people said.

The technology in eSIM - short for electronic SIM - allows users to switch between carriers via a settings menu directly from their phone or tablet. According to the Times, Verizon and AT&T allegedly colluded with the G.S.M.A.to develop a telecom standard that would allow a carrier to lock a handset to its network even if the device is equipped with eSIM technology.

This investigation, according to today's report, started five months ago after one device maker and wireless carrier filed formal complaints with the DOJ.

News of the investigation comes as AT&T is already fighting the Justice Department in court over its blockbuster deal to acquire Time Warner, the parent company of CNN. "Along with other GSMA members, we have provided information to the government in response to their requests and will continue to work proactively within GSMA, including with those who might disagree with the proposed standards, to move this issue forward". The spokesman characterized the DOJ collusion investigation as a WITCH HUNT "much ado about nothing".

The Justice Department is investigating an alleged case of collusion, but this has nothing to do with President Donald J. Trump and Russian Federation.

AT&T and Verizon are the giants of the US wireless business, controlling about 70 percent of all wireless subscriptions.

The investigation highlights a push by the Justice Department's antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, to crack down on the opaque world of intellectual property, or I.P., standards. Apple Watch and iPad both use eSIM technology and Apple is reportedly one of multiple manufacturers who has raised concerns with the DOJ. He has said the Justice Department will scrutinize potential coordination in standards-setting organizations that can hurt competition.

CNN's video below covers why the AT&T Time Warner trial matters.