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The DOJ is investigating all Major U.S. Carriers over collusion to thwart eSIM cards while AT&T Reveals a new Mobile TV Plan



It's being reported this afternoon that the Justice Department had reached out to all four major U.S. wireless carriers as part of an antitrust investigation. The NY Times claims the letters were sent out in February and is only now coming to light.


In February, the Justice Department issued demands to AT&T, Verizon and the G.S.M.A., a mobile industry standards-setting group, for information on potential collusion to thwart a technology known as eSIM, said two of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details are confidential.


The technology lets people remotely switch wireless providers without having to insert a new SIM card into a device. AT&T and Verizon face accusations that they colluded with the G.S.M.A. to try to establish standards that would allow them to lock a device to their network even if it had eSIM technology.


The investigation was opened about five months ago after at least one device maker and one wireless carrier filed formal complaints with the Justice Department, two of the people said. CNBC clearly points out that the 'one device maker' was Apple.


2 apple eSIM Apple Watch 3

The report notes that the source said that the department sent letters to AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint in February requesting information.


The person also said the Justice Department previously examined this matter in 2016, but ended up dropping the investigation. A source said that Apple filed a complaint, which was one factor behind the 2016 probe.


The antitrust division is looking into whether or not carriers colluded in stifling technology that allows customers to switch providers without having to change out their SIM card.


Earlier, The New York Times reported that AT&T and Verizon were being investigated. The newspaper also reported that the Justice Department has demanded information from GSMA, a mobile communications industry group.


In a statement, a Verizon spokesman confirmed that the carrier had been working with the Justice Department for several months on the inquiry because of "a difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of eSIM standards." He said the issue was "much ado about nothing."


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 turnover and fewer subscribers for them.


The investigation highlights a push by the Justice Department's antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, to crack down on the opaque world of intellectual property, or I.P., standards. He has said the Justice Department will scrutinize potential coordination in standards-setting organizations that can hurt competition.


"In the context of antitrust and I.P., we will be inclined to investigate and enforce when we see evidence of collusive conduct undertaken for the purpose of fixing prices, or excluding particular competitors or products," Mr. Delrahim said in a speech this month at a conference in Washington.


He previously warned of the potential for "cartel-like behavior" by competitors that got together with standards-setting organizations. For more on this read the full NY Times report here.


MacRumors covered Apple Watch 3 with LTE and eSIM cards having problems with AT&T going back to last September. This is likely why CNBC believes that it was Apple who contacted the government to complain about the problem.


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


While the government is investigating the matter of collusion which involves AT&T, we also learned today in a court case with the government, that the government believes AT&T's proposed low cost mobile TV service called 'Watch' will hurt consumers. To catch up on this tech drama, check out CNN's report here.


CNN's video below covers why the AT&T Time Warner trial matters.



Apple is in the midst of preparing a new video service, something like Netflix. Today we know it as Apple Worldwide Video. The branding is likely to change when Apple reveals more about their upcoming service which could come as early as in June, during their WWDC 2018 event. Will AT&T's mobile TV bundles interfere with Apple's plans? Only time will tell.


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