GSMA puts new technology on hold in wake of United States probe

Apr 22, 2018, 01:44
GSMA puts new technology on hold in wake of United States probe

According to the report, which cited unnamed sources familiar with the situation, the DoJ started its investigation into the topic in February after receiving complaints on the topic from at least one device maker and one wireless operator.

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. As noted by the NYT, AT&T, Verizon and the GSMA declined to comment on the topic. The potential collusion is over a technology called eSIM, which lets people remotely switch carriers without having to get a new physical SIM card.

Verizon spokesman Richard Young brushed off the investigation and said the company has been "proactively and constructively working with the Justice Department for several months".

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Carriers like AT&T and Verizon have increasingly been losing subscribers to T-Mobile, thanks to more consumer friendly policies ranging from cheaper worldwide roaming to the elimination of hidden fees and long-term contracts. "[The issue was] much ado about nothing".

At issue is a technology that could make carriers' business more volatile.

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.

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As it is, carriers around the world and in the United States in particular already hold an overwhelming power over consumers, often charging ridiculously high fees to purchase and activate a new SIM card. It's something supported by companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft, and has already been integrated to some degree in some smart watches.

Apple and Samsung have both been pushing the telecom industry to adopt eSIM technology.

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The person briefed on the matter said the Obama administration had investigated similar claims in 2016 but did not take any action. Verizon has said it needed to be able to lock down phones to prevent theft and fraud.