The New York Times reported on Friday that the Justice Department had opened an investigation about five months ago after at least one device maker and one wireless carrier filed formal complaints with the Justice Department.
In addition to making switching providers easier, eSIM could also allow people to use local carriers during worldwide travel and enable the space ordinarily reserved for SIM cards to be taken up by other phone systems. According to the Times, Verizon and AT&T allegedly colluded with the G.S.M.A.to develop a telecom standard that would allow a carrier to lock a handset to its network even if the device is equipped with eSIM technology.
The reports about the investigation come as AT&T completed the fifth week of an antitrust trial brought by the U.S. The Justice Department's antitrust division sued to block AT&T's $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner because it would give the combined companies too much negotiating leverage and increase TV prices for consumers. "The reality is that we have a difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of e-SIM standards". "False ring tones also create a misleading impression that a caller's service provider is not responsible if the call fails", explains the FCC order.
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AT&T and Verizon together control about 70 percent of all wireless subscriptions in the United States.
The source said the Obama administration had investigated similar claims in 2016 but did not take any action. The following year President Barack Obama signed legislation giving consumers the freedom to switch between wireless carriers without having to purchase a new phone. AT&T told the Times that it was aware of the investigation and cooperating with authorities.
We'll keep you updated as this investigation continues. For example, in 2014 Apple introduced a SIM for its iPad that allowed some users - but not those from AT&T - to switch among providers.
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The eSIM technology is featured on devices made by Google and Apple, including the Pixel smartphone and Apple Watch, respectively. To catch up on this tech drama, check out CNN's report here.
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