The DOJ is looking into whether AT&T and Verizon worked with the GSMA, a regulatory body for the mobile ecosystem, to hinder a technology known as eSIM. It enables customers to remotely switch wireless providers without having to swap out a physical SIM card.
GSMA has put development of the eSIM standard on hold pending the completion of the antitrust investigation, it confirmed.
GSMA said in a statement:
The GSMA, working with leading mobile operators, device makers and SIM manufacturers worldwide, is facilitating the development of a universal standard for eSIM that will be deployed globally.
This standard contains a wide range of features, including the option for the eSIM to be locked. In the United States, consumers would have this option; however, they would need to explicitly consent to this under specific commercial agreements with their mobile operator, for example when purchasing a subsidised device.
The development of the latest version of the specification is on hold pending the completion of an investigation by the United States Department of Justice. The GSMA is cooperating fully with the Department of Justice in this matter.
Apple and other mobile equipment makers earlier joined in complaining to federal regulators about wireless carrier practices, according to Bloomberg.
A Verizon spokesperson told CNET it has “proactively and constructively working with the Justice Department for several months.” The DOJ has reportedly requested information from all four US wireless carriers, including Sprint and T-Mobile.
“The accusations regarding this issue are much ado about nothing,” a Verizon spokesperson said in a statement. “The reality is that we have a difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of eSIM standards. Nothing more.”
An AT&T spokesperson said in a statement: “We are aware of the investigation into GSMA’s process for developing eSIM standards that provide a better experience for consumers,” the spokesperson said. “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, to move this issue forward.”