USA said to investigate AT&T, Verizon over wireless collusion claim

USA said to investigate AT&T, Verizon over wireless collusion claim

Apple declined to comment.

An AT&T spokesman said in an email: "Along with other GSMA members, we have provided information to the government in response to their requests and will continue to work proactively within GSMA, including with those who might disagree with the proposed standards".

It's being reported this afternoon that the Justice Department had reached out to all four major US wireless carriers as part of an antitrust investigation.

Most phones now require a SIM card to work with a particular carrier, but eSIM, the report noted, would make it possible for people to switch carriers without buying a new SIM card.

"A customer that owns a device that can be readily switched from carrier to carrier without even having to bring it in to the store, that's a world that would have much higher churn and lower profitability [for the carriers]", he said.

AT&T and Verizon together control about 70 percent of all wireless subscriptions in the United States.

More news: New York Giants: Release of Brandon Marshall is no surprise

The investigation is said to be focused on AT&T, Verizon and the GSM Association, a London-based group that represents the interests of wireless carriers globally, The New York Times reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

In a private meeting this year of a task force called GSMA North America, AT&T and Verizon pushed for the ability to lock phones to their networks, bypassing the goal of eSIM technology, said Harold Feld, a senior vice president of Public Knowledge, a nonprofit consumer group, who was briefed on the meeting.

"We are aware of the investigation into GSMA's process for developing eSIM standards that provide a better experience for consumers", AT&T said. "Nothing more", Verizon's Young said.

The investigation comes as the Justice Department is suing AT&T to block its $85 billion merger with Time Warner. With an eSIM embedded in a handset, the user doesn't have to swap a SIM card on a phone to change carriers.

"Standards-setting bodies are both extremely valuable, and create an opportunity for collusion", said John Bergmayer, senior counsel at Public Knowledge, an advocacy group focused on copyright, telecom and the internet. Collusion to maintain their dominant positions in the market, assuming it happened, would be problematic and is the source of the DOJ's alleged investigation. While the iPad does have the technology, not all carriers use it. Verizon doesn't support it at all.

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