The department in 2018 demanded information from AT&T, Verizon and other U.S. companies.

Tech

U.S. Ends Probe Into Wireless Carriers’ Influence on Rules for Switching Providers

par Featured articles licensed from The Wall Street Journal | le 29 November 2019


 

Justice Department says process for setting eSIM standards limited competition, but doesn’t file charges

By

Drew FitzGerald – The Wall Street Journal

The U.S. ended an antitrust probe, without filing charges, into whether wireless carriers steered technical standards to make it harder for customers to switch providers.

The Justice Department in 2018 demanded information from AT&T Inc., T 0.70% Verizon Communications Inc. VZ 0.35% and other U.S. companies as well as from GSMA, the international trade group that manages standards for the technology, called eSIM.

Smartphones with an eSIM, or embedded subscriber identity module, let users store multiple carrier profiles on the same device. That makes it easy to switch between their networks, although only one can be used at a time.

Smartphones with eSIMs are common in many countries but less often used in the U.S. The government’s inquiry focused on whether American telecom companies might have steered GSMA’s standards-writing process, making it harder for subscribers to switch wireless companies. The department’s 2018 inquiry revived a previous information-gathering process that had wrapped up in 2016.

The department said Wednesday the group and its carrier members “used an unbalanced standard-setting process, with procedures that stacked the deck in their favor” with provisions that limited competition among networks. But antitrust officials stopped short of filing any charges.

Apple Inc. and Google owner Alphabet Inc., which make devices with eSIM technology, pushed for more leeway to design smartphones with flexible SIMs.

The Justice Department issued a “business review letter” to GSMA that said the London-based group’s updated procedures for managing eSIM standards would comply with antitrust law.

GSMA, for its part, promised to include companies from more than one industry in its standards-setting working groups, a move that could give smartphone makers more influence over how eSIM specifications evolve. The group said Wednesday it will release a new eSIM standard in the coming months.

AT&T and Verizon previously said they were cooperating with the U.S. probe.