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DOJ investigating Verizon, AT&T for eSIM collusion

DOJ investigating Verizon, AT&T for eSIM collusion

It appears that the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched an antitrust investigation into the Big Four carriers in America, reportedly about possible eSIM tech collusion. Although the DOJ’s investigation covers all of the major mobile operators, the focus seems to be on the industry leader -- Verizon Wireless and AT&T -- as well as on the GSMA (Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association).

What the DOJ is trying to find out is whether Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and the GSMA have worked together in order to stop eSIM technology from being adopted more freely, not only by other mobile operators but also by end users. Many industry watchers believe that if eSIM takes off with the masses, it would allow consumers to switch between wireless networks more easily.

According to various reports, it turns out that the DOJ had begun its investigation back in February early this year. The Department was compelled to do so after receiving numerous complaints from more than one wireless carrier and mobile manufacturer. As indicated in a Bloomberg report, Apple is said to be one of those tech companies that have complained. Interestingly, reports state that the DOJ had already launched a similar investigation around a couple of years ago, but then it had stopped without taking any action against the parties under investigation. 

Those not familiar with eSIM tech might be surprised to know that this form of wireless technology has existed for nearly ten years now. By using eSIMs, mobile users can just quickly change their wireless service provider without needing to get a new SIM card for their smartphone devices. 

So are the two biggest mobile operators in the United States really up to something? Verizon Wireless has actually already responded, and had stated that the Big Red is simply disagreeing with the mobile manufacturers with regards to what standard to comply with in implementing eSIM tech across the wireless industry. Switching between networks is easier said than done, due to the fact that carriers often use slightly varying wireless tech and spectrum bands.

The GSMA has similarly issued a statement, claiming that it is fully cooperating with the DOJ’s antitrust investigation. According to the group, the eSIM standard currently being developed comes with a broad range of features, including a functionality for locking eSIMs. While it is true that mobile users in America can enjoy this option, they would still need to give their clear consent according to specific commercial agreements with their wireless service provider, like when buying a subsidized handset, for instance.