It looks like Verizon and AT&T could be in some hot water. The two carriers are currently under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department after claims that the companies had colluded in an attempt to thwart the development of eSIM technology and make it difficult for customers from easily switching carriers.
According to two people familiar with the matter who were cited in a report by the New York Times, the Justice Department first demanded information from Verizon and AT&T, as well as industry standard-setting organization GSMA, in February, following formal complaints. After those formal complaints, device manufacturers expressed their concern about carriers’ involvement in restricting the spread of eSIM technology.
Electronic SIM technology, or eSIM, essentially allows customers to quickly and easily switch to a new carrier without having to obtain and insert a new SIM card. It could even find a home in a new generation of connected devices, like connected computers. That may sound great to you as a consumer, but carriers aren’t so happy about it — it means that customers who find cheaper prices will be able to switch carriers without issue. Verizon and AT&T, who currently control a combined 70 percent of wireless subscriptions in the U.S., stand to lose a lot of money with the technology. So much so, that they even pushed for the ability to lock phones to their networks, which would essentially bypass the goal of eSIM technology in the first place.
In particular, investigators are working to determine if AT&T and Verizon are secretly trying to influence the development of the new tech to unfairly maintain their dominance and, as a result, hurt consumers.
Several device manufacturers currently support eSIM technology, including Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Apple even included eSIM tech in the Apple Watch Series 3, while Google uses a version of it in the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.
The consensus among consumers and tech companies seems to be that eSIM technology is on the way regardless of what carriers want — though carriers could certainly wield enough of their power to slow down the development of eSIM technology or change eSIM standard in some way..