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

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

The New York Times reported Friday that Justice Department antitrust investigators are looking into whether Verizon, AT&T and GSMA colluded to undermine eSIM, a technology introduced in 2016 that eliminates the need for SIM cards in mobile devices.

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.

That would have been accomplished by thwarting "eSIM" technology, which lets people remotely switch providers without inserting a new SIM card into their device.

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Representatives for the Justice Department, GSMA and Apple declined to comment. The probe began after a device maker, identified in the Times report as Apple, and a separate wireless carrier filed a formal complaint.

Carriers like AT&T and Verizon have increasingly been losing subscribers to T-Mobile, thanks to more consumer friendly policies ranging from cheaper global roaming to the elimination of hidden fees and long-term contracts. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department didn't respond to a request seeking comment. 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. "The reality is that we have a difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of e-SIM standards".

FBN's Connell McShane discusses the court battle between AT&T-Time Warner and the Department of Justice. The company said it "will continue to work proactively within GSMA, including with those who might disagree with the proposed standards, to move this issue forward".

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The Times said the Justice Department sent demands to AT&T, Verizon and the GSMA, an industry standards-setting group, on efforts to thwart a technology called eSIM.

AT&T and Verizon together control about 70 percent of all wireless subscriptions in the United States. The Justice Department hasn't confirmed the allegations at this time. With an eSIM embedded in a handset, the user doesn't have to swap a SIM card on a phone to change carriers. Collusion to maintain their dominant positions in the market, assuming it happened, would be problematic and is the source of the DOJ's alleged investigation.

AT&T has also issued a statement that reads, "We are aware of the investigation into GSMA's process for developing eSIM standards that provide a better experience for consumers".

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