U.S. Department of Justice Investigating Claims AT&T, Verizon and GSMA Colluded to Prevent Customers From Easily Switching Carriers [Updated]

The United States Department of Justice today launched an antitrust investigation to determine whether U.S. carriers, including Verizon and AT&T, have coordinated to prevent consumers from easily switching wireless carriers, reports The New York Times.

AT&T, Verizon, and GSMA, an industry group that sets mobile standards, were asked in February for documents related to their efforts to hinder the implementation of eSIMs. An embedded SIM, or eSIM, is a standardized chip that's designed to replace a physical SIM card.

iphonesimcardifixit

A physical SIM card slot in an iPhone, via iFixit

With eSIM technology, there is no need to swap out SIM cards when switching carriers, making it easier to make a switch from one carrier to another. eSIMs are designed to be compatible with all major carriers, regardless of network type.

eSIMs are a major change from physical SIM cards, which require customers who wish to switch carriers to obtain a new SIM card when changing providers. eSIMs make it simpler for customers to swap carriers while traveling, and, of interest to device makers, they free up space currently taken up by a SIM card.

AT&T and Verizon are accused of colluding with the GSMA to create standards that would allow devices with eSIM technology to be locked to their networks. Representatives from the two carriers attended a meeting for a private task force called GSMA North America earlier this year and advocated for the ability to keep eSIM devices tied to a single carrier.

Verizon reportedly claimed that phones needed to be locked to its network in order to prevent theft and fraud.

At the heart of the investigation is whether the nation's biggest wireless carriers, working with the G.S.M.A., secretly tried to influence mobile technology to unfairly maintain their dominance, in a way that hurt competition and consumers and hindered innovation in the wider mobile industry.

AT&T and Verizon together control about 70 percent of all wireless subscriptions in the United States. A technology that made it easy to switch carriers could lead to more churn and fewer subscribers for them.

The Department of Justice launched began the probe several months ago following formal complaints from at least one device maker and one wireless carrier. The investigation may include other carriers beyond Verizon and AT&T.

AT&T, Verizon, and other U.S. carriers have long resisted features that would make it easier for customers to switch carriers at will without being tied to a specific network. Verizon, for example, refused to allow Apple to offer Verizon service through the Apple SIM built into newer iPads. The Apple SIM, a multi-carrier SIM card, is designed to make it easier for customers to choose a carrier after an iPad purchase and switch to a new carrier when traveling.

Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other wireless carriers in the United States are proponents of the eSIM. Apple, for example, is said to want to use eSIM technology in its 2018 iPhones, but may instead opt for dual-SIM technology because "some carriers are resistant to the idea."

Apple has already implemented eSIM technology in the Apple Watch Series 3 models equipped with LTE connectivity. The eSIM is also a feature of the Google Pixel 2 smartphone and the Microsoft Surface.

Update: According to CNBC, all four major U.S. carriers received requests from the U.S. Justice Department.

Update 2: Apple is one of the companies that submitted a complaint to the Department of Justice, according to Bloomberg.

Top Rated Comments

826317 Avatar
40 months ago
And people say the free market will get rid of these types of practices... I'm all for the free market, but there needs to be at least some form of regulation..
Score: 42 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JPack Avatar
40 months ago
It now makes sense why U.S. consumers are in the dark about dual-SIM phones. And questioning the need for it.

Time to wake up and see how the rest of the world works!
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
whyamihere Avatar
40 months ago
The sooner these companies accept the fact that they are nothing more than a dumb pipe and a means to an end, the better for everyone. I still find it absolutely ridiculous that I can't pre-order a new iPhone each year (paid in full) without being forced to prove an existing wireless account with the big 4.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HobeSoundDarryl Avatar
40 months ago
AT&T and Verizon? Collusion?

Say it isn't so. How could such benevolent companies possibly be associated with such a term?

What would happen next? Something as crazy as...

Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ThisIsNotMe Avatar
40 months ago
Making Wireless Competition Great Again!
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JackieInCo Avatar
40 months ago
I refused to activate my iPad Pro on AT&T because I knew the eSim would be looked to AT&T. I only used T-Mobile because of this

This is proof that all carriers are shady in some way.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple music change forever

Apple Music Teaser: 'Get Ready – Music is About to Change Forever'

Sunday May 16, 2021 2:39 pm PDT by
The Browse tab in the Music app across Apple's platforms has started displaying a prominent teaser hinting at an upcoming major announcement for Apple Music. Under the heading "Coming soon," the headline says "Get ready – music is about to change forever." An accompanying "Tune-In Video" simply shows an animated Apple Music logo. Rumors have indicated that Apple is preparing to launch a...
m1 ipad pro early customer

M1 iPad Pro Arrives Early for Lucky Customer

Saturday May 15, 2021 11:57 pm PDT by
Days ahead of their expected launch and seemingly before official review embargoes lift, one lucky customer has already gotten their hands on the brand new 12.9-inch M1 iPad Pro. Reddit User PeterDragon50 Posted on Reddit, u/PeterDragon50 has already received their 12.9-inch iPad Pro through retailer Nebraska Furniture Mart. The Reddit user says they placed their order when pre-orders...
2021 mbp hdmi slot 3d

2021 MacBook Pro Leaks Confirm Returning MagSafe and Ports

Friday May 14, 2021 3:06 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming MacBook Pro models are expected to feature a number of major changes such as larger display options and powerful new Apple silicon chips. Among the more surprising updates to this year's MacBook Pro models is the return of three ports that have been missing from the machines for over five years. Expected to come in 14- and 16-inch sizes, the 2021 MacBook Pro models are...
Twitter Feature

Twitter's 'Blue' Subscription Service May Cost $2.99, Will Offer Undo Tweet Option

Saturday May 15, 2021 11:08 am PDT by
Twitter has been working on some kind of subscription service since last summer, and Jane Manchun Wong, who often digs into new features coming in apps, has shared details on just what Twitter is exploring. Twitter's subscription service could be called Twitter Blue, and at the current time, it's priced at $2.99 per month. There will be a "Collections" section that allows users to save and...
AirPods Lineup Not Lossless Feature

AirPods, AirPods Max and AirPods Pro Don't Support Apple Music Lossless Audio

Monday May 17, 2021 10:44 am PDT by
Apple today announced that starting in June, Apple Music songs will be available to stream in Lossless and Hi-Resolution Lossless formats, but lossless audio won't be supported on the AirPods, AirPods Max, or AirPods Pro. Apple's Lossless Audio is encoded as Apple Lossless Audio Codec files, with lossless quality ranging from 16-bit 44.1 kHz playback to 24-bit 48 kHz playback and Hi-Res...
Top Stories 60 Feature

Top Stories: M1 iMac Benchmarks, iPhone Battery Life Tips, Colorful MacBook Air?

Saturday May 15, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
Anticipation is building for the new iMac and iPad Pro models, which have started shipping out ahead of a launch around May 21. Benchmarks for the new machines are starting to come in, and the M1 chips inside of them are registering at around the same figures seen with other M1-based Macs, making for significant upgrades over previous-generation models. This week also saw some rumors about...
apple music spatial audio

Apple Music Launching Spatial Audio With Dolby Atmos and Lossless Audio in June at No Extra Cost

Monday May 17, 2021 6:06 am PDT by
Apple today announced that Apple Music will be gaining support for Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos at no additional cost starting in June. At launch, Apple Music subscribers will have access to thousands of songs in Spatial Audio from artists like J Balvin, Gustavo Dudamel, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Kacey Musgraves, The Weeknd, and many others. Apple says this feature will provide a...
General Music and AirPod 3 Feature

Rumor: Apple to Announce Third-Generation AirPods and HiFi Apple Music Tier on May 18

Thursday May 13, 2021 10:32 pm PDT by
A new rumor suggests that Apple will announce the third-generation AirPods and the recently rumored HiFi, or high-fidelity Apple Music tier, on Tuesday, May 18, via a press release on its website. The new rumor comes from Apple YouTuber Luke Miani who shared the alleged exclusive news with the AppleTrack website. According to the YouTuber, Apple plans to release the next-generation AirPods...
apple music logo

Apple Music Teaser References 'Hi-Res Lossless' and 'Dolby Atmos'

Sunday May 16, 2021 4:04 pm PDT by
Earlier today, Apple Music began teasing a special announcement with the tagline "Get Ready – Music is About to Change Forever." This teaser comes amid a rumor that Apple is preparing to announce the third-generation AirPods alongside a HiFi, or lossless audio streaming tier for Apple Music on Tuesday, May 18. Now, references to "Apple Lossless," "Free Lossless," "Hi-Res Lossless," and...
tile amazon sidewalk integration

Apple Says Tile Trackers Sold Poorly in Apple Stores

Friday May 14, 2021 4:53 am PDT by
Earlier last month, Spotify, Tile, and Match (owner of Tinder), testified at an app store antitrust hearing spearheaded by the U.S. Senate. During the hearing, Spotify called Apple's App Store "an abusive power grab," while Tile said Apple uses its platform to "unfairly limit competition for its products." Now, in response to their testimonies, Apple's vice president and chief compliance...