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

Verizon logo on a truck in New York City Oct 13 2017

The Verizon logo is seen on the side of a truck in New York City

The Times, which cited six sources with knowledge of the matter, reported that the probe began about five months ago when at least one device maker and one carrier filed complaints with the DOJ.

Aside from being much smaller than current nano-SIM cards, eSIM would let customers switch from one carrier to another with nearly as much ease as one switches from one email address to another.

GSMA, a telecommunications standards organization, announced Saturday it is delaying implementation of a new cellphone technology in wake of the Justice Department's investigation of alleged coordination between the group, AT&T and Verizon Communications. The potential collusion is over a technology called eSIM, which lets people remotely switch carriers without having to get a new physical SIM card.

An AT&T spokesperson said that the company is aware of the investigation and is working with the government to "move this issue forward".

"The accusations regarding this issue are much ado about nothing", Verizon spokesman Rich Young said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. Locking down this technology would only make the wireless carriers have stronger control, reducing the possibilities of a healthy competitive wireless market in the United States.

At the heart of the investigation is whether the nation's biggest wireless carriers, working with the GSMA, secretly tried to influence mobile technology to unfairly maintain their dominance, in a way that hurt competition and consumers and hindered innovation in the wider mobile industry.

The investigation comes as the Justice Department is suing AT&T to block its $85 billion merger with Time Warner. The Apple Watch 3 and Google's Pixel 3 also have eSIMs installed.

FBN's Connell McShane discusses the court battle between AT&T-Time Warner and the Department of Justice. People typically have to buy a new SIM card when changing carriers.

The source said the Obama administration had investigated similar claims in 2016 but did not take any action.

In December Patently Apple posted a granted patent report that covered Apple's eSIM card technology. Verizon had previously stated that it needed to be able lock down phones as a way to prevent fraud and theft.

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