AT&T, Verizon under DoJ antitrust investigation for possible eSIM collusion, report says

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According to the Times a device maker, named as Apple, and an unnamed carrier has complained to the Justice Department, saying that USA's two biggest carriers, AT&T and Verizon, and the GSMA standards body was colluding to allow carriers to lock down e-SIM devices to a single carrier, preventing easy portability of service.

Shares of AT&T and Verizon dipped after the initial Times report, with AT&T closing down 0.4 per cent at US$34.67, and Verizon ending off 1.1 per cent, at US$47.90. AT&T and Verizon stand accused of seeking the ability to keep phone numbers locked to their networks regardless of eSim.

One source told the paper that the investigation could also include other top USA carriers.

The investigation was originally opened five months ago after at least one wireless carrier and at least one smartphone manufacturer filed formal complaints.

In December Patently Apple posted a granted patent report that covered Apple's eSIM card technology.

We are aware of the investigation into GSMA's process for developing eSIM standards that provide a better experience for consumers.

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A Verizon spokesperson called the investigation "much ado about nothing", brushing off the matter as little more than a "difference of opinion" regarding eSIM standards.

The person also said the Justice Department previously examined this matter in 2016, but ended up dropping the investigation. Despite eSIM's obvious advantages, it has yet to achieve any significant presence in the market, with only a few notable devices having adopted it so far, such as Google's Pixel 2 and the Apple Watch 3.

The probe will unfold alongside the Justice Department's ongoing effort to block a proposed $85.4 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner, citing concerns that the deal would be harmful to consumers.

AT&T and Time Warner have disputed the claims in court.

Consumer advocates learned in February that Verizon was apparently planning to lock phones as an anti-theft measure, and later were told by industry participants that Verizon was working with AT&T in hopes of convincing the GSMA to create a standard for locking the phones, according to Harold Feld, a senior vice president at Public Knowledge.