US Justice Dept. to probe AT&T, Verizon wireless contracts

Kelley Robertson
April 22, 2018

The G.S.M.A., a mobile industry standards-setting group, is also part of the investigation, according to the NY Times.

Verizon and AT&T acknowledged the government probe and said they were working with regulators. Nothing more. We've been proactively and constructively working with the Department of Justice for several months regarding this inquiry and we continue to do so.

According to the report, which cited unnamed sources familiar with the situation, the DoJ started its investigation into the topic in February after receiving complaints on the topic from at least one device maker and one wireless operator. He said the issue was "much ado about nothing".

The Department and AT&T declined to comment on the report and Verizon could not be immediately reached for comment. The GSMA has issued a statement in response to the story which announced that the organization has halted development of the eSIM standard until the ongoing investigation is completed.

"[There seems to be] a difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of eSIM standards".

News has broke this afternoon that the US Department of Justice has opened an investigation over antitrust concerns and potential collusion between Verizon and AT&T in efforts to prevent eSIM adoption and progress. Google's Pixel 2 smartphones and Microsoft's Surface devices also use eSIM tech, hinting that these companies may have had reason to file complaints as well.

The person briefed on the matter said the Obama administration had investigated similar claims in 2016 but did not take any action.

News of the probe comes at a critical time for AT&T which is being sued by the Justice Department to stop its deal to buy media company Time Warner Inc (TWX.N). For companies like Apple, eSIM technology would free up storage space in devices to use for other technologies like bigger processors and batteries.

In a private meeting this year of a task force called GSMA North America, AT&T and Verizon pushed for the ability to lock phones to their networks, bypassing the goal of eSIM technology, said Harold Feld, a senior vice president of Public Knowledge, a nonprofit consumer group, who was briefed on the meeting.

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