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US Justice Dept. to probe AT&T, Verizon wireless contracts

US Justice Dept. to probe AT&T, Verizon wireless contracts

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. Since Verizon and AT&T are the two largest wireless operators in the states, supporting eSIM technology could cause the pair to lose a number of subscribers.

An active investigation has now been in play for 5 months with Verizon saying it was "much ado about nothing" and AT&T being eager to "move this issue forward".

During the duration of this investigation, the G.S.M.A has confirmed that they would put the developments of the method to lock a carrier to a device using eSIM on hold until a verdict is reached.

The technology lets people remotely switch wireless providers without having to insert a new SIM card into a device.

"The reality is that we have a difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of e-SIM standards", Verizon spokesman Rich Young said to The Wall Street Journal. Nothing more. We've been proactively and constructively working with the Department of Justice for several months regarding this inquiry and we continue to do so.

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In February, the department sent civil investigative demands to the four major USA wireless carriers - including T-Mobile and Sprint, and GSMA. In February, the Justice Department requested information from AT&T, Verizon, and the G.S.M.A regarding collusion. For more on this read the full NY Times report here.

The person also said the Justice Department previously examined this matter in 2016, but ended up dropping the investigation.

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 objective of eSIM technology, said Harold Feld, a senior vice president of Public Knowledge, a nonprofit consumer group, who was briefed on the meeting.

Consumer advocates support the idea of an electronic SIM card, which is in the process of being rolled out, since it allows phone owners to bargain hunt and contract with any network or to shift networks easily while travelling, said Feld.