- AT&T, Verizon, and GSMA are said to be under investigation over claims they colluded to make it more difficult for users to switch networks using eSIM technology.
- eSIM technology development “on hold” pending the investigation.
- A Verizon spokesperson reportedly dismissed the inquiry as “much ado about nothing.”
AT&T, Verizon, and mobile industry standards-setting group GSMA are said to be under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department over accusations that they colluded to establish eSIM standards that would stop users easily changing wireless carriers.
According to Reuters, the investigation was opened around five months ago after at least one device manufacturer and one carrier filed complaints with the justice department. The publication’s sources say the device maker is Apple.
eSIM stands for Embedded SIM and it replaces the need for physical SIM cards. The technology is especially important in wearables and smaller devices where space is at a premium. In fact, many carriers already support the tech for tablets and smartwatches.
However, one of the more exciting things about the tech — and presumably what may have caused carriers to worry — is that it promises to allow users to switch between networks without the need for different SIM cards. Instead, it could be done using an app.
Benefits for consumers could include making it easier to sign up to a new carrier while abroad or simply taking advantage of different deals from different carriers in your home country. Currently, to have the same freedom you would need multiple SIM cards and an unlocked phone.
It is easy to see, therefore, why the ability to easily switch networks would worry carriers. It could potentially put the power firmly in the hands of consumers.
According to the Reuters article, GSMA confirmed that it had developed an eSIM standard that would allow carriers to lock devices to its network. However, it said that the standard is on hold pending the investigation. A Verizon spokesperson reportedly dismissed the inquiry as “much ado about nothing.”
Just last year, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL became the first smartphones to feature eSIM technology. Although, upon the release of these phones the only carrier that allowed Pixel 2 users to make use of the technology was Google’s own Project Fi.