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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 was opened after the Justice Department recieved formal complaints from at least one wireless carrier and one device maker. This would make it impossible for customers to switch carriers and runs counter to the objective of eSIM.

The Department and AT&T declined to comment on the report and Verizon could not be immediately reached for comment.

The new eSIM technology allows mobile phone users to jump to a new provider without having to use a traditional physical SIM card in their handset.

"The development of the latest version of the specification is on hold pending the completion of an investigation by the United States Department of Justice", GSMA said in a statement. AT&T and Verizon stand accused of seeking the ability to keep phone numbers locked to their networks regardless of eSim.

"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. He said the issue was "much ado about nothing".

"Apple's desperate for this technology to be there because they want to make the phone smaller and thinner", Kyle Wiens, chief executive of iFixit, which break down down iPhones and writes an iPhone fix manual, said to The Wall Street Journal.

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

MacRumors covered Apple Watch 3 with LTE and eSIM cards having problems with AT&T going back to last September.

AT&T is also facing an antitrust lawsuit from the Justice Department over its $85 billion merger with Time Warner. For companies like Apple, eSIM technology would free up storage space in devices to use for other technologies like bigger processors and batteries.

News of the probe comes at a critical time for AT&T which is being sued by the Justice Department to stop its deal to buy media company Time Warner Inc (TWX.N). Verizon supposedly claimed that it needed to lock down their phones as a way 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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