Apple, device makers behind DOJ probe of telecom collusion

Marco Green
April 21, 2018

AT&T is already locked in a legal battle with the Justice Department over its plan to acquire Time Warner.

Verizon and AT&T acknowledged the government probe and said they were working with regulators.

The into whether AT&T (NYSE:) and Verizon (NYSE:) might be colluding to thwart "eSIM" technology that eases switching from carrier to carrier, The New York Times reported, sending their stocks into a decline before they partly recovered by the close.

eSIM is a technology that eliminates the need for a physical SIM card, which has traditionally been needed to switch carriers. eSIM allows carriers to switch carriers remotely without the need to purchase a new SIM card.

The accusations regarding this issue are much ado about nothing.

This investigation, according to today's report, started five months ago after one device maker and wireless carrier filed formal complaints with the DOJ. The department issued demands to the companies and the GSMA, a mobile industry standards group, for information on possible collusion, said the people, who asked not to be named because the matter isn't public.

Sprint declined to comment, and representatives for Verizon, T-Mobile and the GSMA did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The three companies may have collaborated to make it harder for customers to switch wireless carriers.

Verizon repudiated the claim, arguing a "difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of eSIM standards", but has been working with the United States government on the inquiry.

AT&T and Verizon together account for more than 70 percent of the USA wireless subscribers.

The investigation comes as the Justice Department is suing AT&T to block its $85 billion merger with Time Warner.

The person briefed on the matter told Reuters that other wireless operators potentially received inquiries from the government. Those on the Google carrier do not receive a SIM card when ordering the phone, with service activated and connected during the initial setup process. Verizon supposedly claimed that it needed to lock down their phones as a way to prevent theft and fraud.

"I am very happy that the DOJ is taking its job as a cop on the beat very seriously", said Feld.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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