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Home / Business / AT & T and Verizon re-examined for collusion. Here's what happened the first time.

AT & T and Verizon re-examined for collusion. Here's what happened the first time.



Verizon and AT & T logos. (1

9659002) The Department of Justice is investigating
whether AT & T and Verizon may work together to thwart a technology that could enable mobile customers to switch carriers more easily. But the antitrust officials, who conducted a similar investigation in 2016, found little evidence to support the allegation and eventually dropped the investigation, according to a letter sent by the Washington Post.

At the conclusion of the Obama era investigation, the government said that while mobile carriers were pushing for new industrial policies that raised competition concerns, their initiative suggested little more than a "technical capability" for mobile phones without clearly showing how or if companies like AT & T and Verizon could use it to gain an unfair advantage.

The investigation could be resumed if the proposed measures raise further concerns after implementation, according to a letter from the Ministry of Justice whose authenticity has been confirmed by several people who are familiar with the matter. While some of the guidelines for inclusion in the final standard have been approved for mobile phones, overall policy remains at the design stage and has not yet been implemented.

The Ministry of Justice declined to comment. AT & T did not respond immediately to a request for a comment. Verizon in a statement on Saturday accused other companies in the wireless industry of creating a "bogus question" for regulators.

"The government has looked at this issue before," Verizon said. "Their results were pretty clear then, and we're confident that the result will be the same this time … the reality is that there's nothing to prove it, it's time to move on."

Verizon finished the year 2017 with over 116 million mobile customers. AT & T ended the year with over 156 million mobile customers in Mexico and the US.

The "technical capability" highlighted by the Department of Justice concerns the development of eSIMs – a relatively new technology that allows consumers to one day switch mobile service providers a little more than a few clicks on their smartphone screen. Unlike the small, physical SIM cards that today need to be connected to devices to register in mobile networks, eSIMs are integrated directly into electronic devices and rely on software that allows switching from the AT & T network to T -Mobile makes child's play

"An eSIM, or an embedded SIM, stores the data on the device itself," said Ferras Vinh, a policy advocate at the Center for Democracy and Technology. "It serves the purpose of a physical SIM card and allows consumers to choose their network operator [remotely]."

The technology is already available in smartphones like Google Pixel 2.

The suggestion of some mobile operators at the GSM Alliance An international forum for the mobile industry would have imposed restrictions on eSIMs in North America. Under the restrictions, consumers would not be able to use the eSIMs remotely without obtaining prior approval from their existing network operator.

The main elements of the proposal had already been approved by the GSMA when the Ministry of Justice intervened in its investigation. In the summer and fall of 2016, the government's investigation delayed the proposal's impetus, although it eventually progressed after Justice closed its investigation.

The recent government investigation is similar to the 2016 investigation in most of the norm-setting process, two persons familiar with the matter. Then as now, all four national mobile operators have been requested by the government for information.

But since 2016, mobile operators have included an additional rule in the proposed mobile standard that would discourage consumers from bypassing the proposed mobile service provider. Restrictions on eSIMs by resetting the device to factory settings GSMA members should vote on this proposal in March – which was postponed in the light of the ongoing investigation by the Ministry of Justice. It is unclear whether the new rule is a focal point of the investigation.

The news of the investigation comes as the Ministry of Justice's trial to block the AT & T's Time Warner merger ($ 85 billion) comes to an end. One of the government's arguments in this case is that AT & T could collide with companies like Comcast to restrict competition in the subscription television market.


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