Apple, device makers behind DOJ probe of telecom collusion

21 April, 2018, 13:51 | Author: Lucy Floyd
  • REUTERS  Mario Anzuoni  File

AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. are under investigation by USA antitrust officials over whether the companies colluded to make it tougher for consumers to switch wireless carriers, according to three people familiar with the matter.

eSIMs are at the heart of Microsoft's Always-Connected PC initiative, and Windows 10 Redstone 4 is set to make it easy to buy data plans from carriers simply by downloading an app from the Microsoft Store, similar to how one can buy a WIFI data plan.

In theory, eSIM would make switching as simple as choosing a carrier directly on your device without the need to manually acquire and insert a physical SIM card from the provider.

The report notes that the source said that the department sent letters to AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint in February requesting information.

Anonymous sources told the NYT that official complaints were filed roughly five months ago, and two months ago the DOJ issued demands to AT&T, Verizon, and the GSMA.

Verizon spokesman Rich Young said in an emailed statement that the matter is "a difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of e-SIM standards". "False ring tones also create a misleading impression that a caller's service provider is not responsible if the call fails", explains the FCC order.

And there have been industry movements toward SIM cards that can switch among carriers.

Westport students honor Parkland school shooting victims during solemn ceremony
Students, however, were advised by administrators not to walk out of their respective schools on that day and most complied. The walkouts are being organized and promoted by a group of students at Ridgefield High School, in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

In December Patently Apple posted a granted patent report that covered Apple's eSIM card technology.

Observers of the trial say AT&T appears to have an advantage after exposing weaknesses in the government's pricing power claims.

"A customer that owns a device that can be readily switched from carrier to carrier without even having to bring it in to the store, that's a world that would have much higher churn and lower profitability [for the carriers]", he said. In late 2013, under pressure by the Federal Communications Commission, the wireless industry agreed to let people take devices off any particular network without penalty once the devices were fully paid for.

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

"The actions would limit choice for consumers and harm competition", said Ferras Vinh, a policy expert at the Center for Democracy and Technology. Verizon has said it needed to be able to lock down phones to prevent theft and fraud.

He previously warned of the potential for "cartel-like behavior" by competitors that got together with standards-setting organizations.

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