Verizon and AT&T are reportedly being investigated over eSIM collusion according to the New York Times. In addition to the two largest carriers in the U.S. the G.S.M.A. is also said to be under investigation, while T-Mobile and Sprint are named as being included according to a different report from CNBC.
Currently nor formal statements surrounding the matter have been issued by AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or the G.S.M.A., but the investigation is said to be centered around collusion between the carriers and the G.S.M.A. to make it more difficult to switch between carriers with devices that used an eSIM. An eSIM is supposed to make it possible for consumers to move to another carrier with an already-owned device without the requirement to insert a standard SIM card. It's said that the U.S. Justice Department sent letters to the carriers back in February requesting information regarding the potential collusion, though it's also mentioned that the investigation started around five months ago after a complaint was made by one wireless carrier and one device manufacturer.
Neither the wireless carrier nor the device manufacturer in this most recent complaint were named, but CNBC reports that Apple allegedly filed a complaint about this issue in 2016 which prompted the Justice Department to look into things before finally dropping the investigation in that year. The issue is being labeled an antitrust violation as AT&T and Verizon are allegedly being accused of colluding with the G.S.M.A. on blocking the eSIM technology from working by locking devices that used that technology down to their networks, thus prohibiting customers from being able to take those devices to a new carrier. A Verizon statement mentions that the carrier has been speaking and working with the Justice Department on the matter because there was a difference of opinion what the standards for eSIM technology should be. While this could be a problem for all four major U.S. wireless carriers, it could be especially problematic for both AT&T and T-Mobile. Last November the Justice Department filed a suit against A&T over the Time Warner deal, while T-Mobile was recently ordered by the FCC to pay $40 Million for faking ringtones on rural calls when calls weren't actually connected.