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U.S. Department of Justice Reviewing Wireless Carrier Exclusivity Agreements

The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. Department of Justice has opened a preliminary inquiry into potential anti-competitive practices by the country's largest wireless carriers. One of the major issues being investigated is the existence of handset exclusivity contracts such as that between AT&T and Apple for the iPhone.

Among the areas the Justice Department could explore is whether wireless carriers are hurting smaller competitors by locking up popular phones through exclusive agreements with handset makers, according to the people. In recent weeks lawmakers and regulators have raised questions about deals such as AT&T's exclusive right to provide service for Apple Inc.'s popular iPhone in the U.S.

AT&T and Verizon are expected to be the prime targets of the inquiry, as the two companies control a combined 60% of the U.S. wireless market and an additional 90 million landline subscribers.

The inquiry comes several weeks after several U.S. Senators issued a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging the agency to investigate the exclusivity arrangements between handset manufacturers and wireless carriers.