Justice Department investigating AT&T and Verizon for blocking eSIM adoption, Apple report...

Posted:
in iPhone edited April 2018
According to sources familiar with the matter, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating claims that AT&T, Verizon, and standards organization GSMA colluded to scuttle eSIM technology which would make switching carriers easier.

SIM cards


According to a report on Friday by the New York Times, a device maker and a wireless carrier filed complaints in November or December 2017 with the DOJ. One source claims the device maker is Apple, the report said.

The complaints allege that AT&T, Verizon, and standards-setting GSMA were working together in secret to establish new standards that would lock out the consumer-friendly eSIM technology, and all of the benefits that it entails.

At the GSMA RIG meeting in January, both AT&T and Verizon are said to have pushed for enhanced ability to lock phones to a network. According to the pair, the ability is important to control theft of the devices -- and would bypass eSIM entirely.

The still-new eSIM technology would remove the need for the small cards that are shipped to customers to allow the phone to access a carrier's network. Instead, the settings for each carrier would be updated in software, allowing for near-instantaneous transfers of an unlocked device from one carrier to another, without the need of that physical card, or the need to have a SIM card reader in a smartphone.

Starting in February, the DOJ demanded information about the technology, and communications between the trio to determine if there was a secret effort to prevent the technology from getting a solid foothold in the market. According to the latest data provided by AT&T and Verizon, the pair control about 72 percent of the wireless market in the United States, and any move to increase friction for customers wanting to switch carriers would maintain that dominance, in the face of increased competition from T-Mobile, Sprint, or smaller pre-paid carriers not owned or controlled by the larger four.

The list of hardware companies that may have complained to the DOJ is smaller. Apple uses the eSIM technology in the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE. Google has adopted it in the Google Pixel 2, with LTE-capable Microsoft Surface devices and the Samsung Gear S2 incorporating it as well.

A similar technology called Apple SIM has been adopted for the iPad, but is specific to those devices, and not the universal standard that the eSIM is supposed to be. Early predictions about the Apple SIM technology suggested that it would serve as a launching platform for the eSIM technology, with carriers and device manufacturers implementing it more heavily after they saw the flexibility of the technology in the iPad, but as of yet, that future has not materialized.

Update: This story has been updated to identify Apple as the device maker that filed the DOJ complaint.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Damn, it’s not collusion on pricing and plan features. Oh, well. Gotta wait another decade for that one, don’t we–OH WAIT, people are going to fall for the pie in the sky promises of 5G in droves and terrify the landline Internet providers, so the Big Four telecoms will have all the support they need to keep up their current models. Still, being able to swap providers at any time without restriction would be great. The only thing that will stop users is the lack of antennae for specific bands.
    GeorgeBMacwonkothesane1983
  • Reply 2 of 39
    Say I travel to Europe and I buy local SIM there and replace it in my iPhone (actual scenario from life). So apart idiotic Apple soloution that requires me to find WiFi and reactivate phone because they feel I stole it from myself, how would purchase at local grocery store when I currently can buy SIM card would work for eSIM? Do I need to take invoice and fax machine to be able to do it and prove that iPhone is still mine? Thi is because Apple Poland tried to do to me... along these lines (it was actually business phone and iPad that I lost in the middle of no access to WiFi and we are talking main system in finance that I own in NYC). Let me know.

    I suggest that Apple should fix fundamental problems first instead of worring about supporting future technology by providers while it is unlikely to be supported in foreign countries for some time. Otherwise iPhone is a toy and not enterprise for business use... unfortunatelly. I wish it had no glitches like this because when it works it works well..
    edited April 2018 xzu[Deleted User]airnerd
  • Reply 3 of 39
    About Verizon to lock it is absolute BS. Actually I spoke with Verizon numerous times that I would be swapping SIM cards temporarily when traveling abroad and they did not have any problem. In fact they may try to help with unlock if there is an issue.
  • Reply 4 of 39
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,027member
    How is that worse that the crazy SMS fees they charged for 2 decades?
    tallest skilolswatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 39
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,027member
    Say I travel to Europe and I buy local SIM there and replace it in my iPhone (actual scenario from life). So apart idiotic Apple soloution that requires me to find WiFi and reactivate phone because they feel I stole it from myself, how would purchase at local grocery store when I currently can buy SIM card would work for eSIM? Do I need to take invoice and fax machine to be able to do it and prove that iPhone is still mine? Thi is because Apple Poland tried to do to me... along these lines (it was actually business phone and iPad that I lost in the middle of no access to WiFi and we are talking main system in finance that I own in NYC). Let me know.

    I suggest that Apple should fix fundamental problems first instead of worring about supporting future technology by providers while it is unlikely to be supported in foreign countries for some time. Otherwise iPhone is a toy and not enterprise for business use... unfortunatelly. I wish it had no glitches like this because when it works it works well..
    1) eSIM isn't an idiotic solution.

    2) Any activation hurdles are from the carries, not the device vendor.

    3) Instead of using special tools or dismantling your phone to swap out physical SIMs, which you also have to Carr, you have a very small chip on the device that could hold several that you can switch between with ease (assuming the carriers don't interfere, which is what they've been doing). 

    4) Just as you can buy a physical SIM at a "local grocery store" you can do the same fucking thing with an eSIM, just like you'd buy an iTunes GC which has a number tied to an account. You then input that number manually or just like you do with the camera when it reads a bar code (note that Apple Pay can do this sans barcode, including your name and expiration date) which then gets stored in 'a' secure element, or perhaps the Secure Element, depending on how it needs to be accessed on the logic board. This could eventually get very clever in Europe where people more frequently travel between countries and use pre-paid SIMs so that the device can switch SIMs automatically based on tower access and/or GPS.
    edited April 2018 rob53davenanomeolsJanNLMacsplosionjbdragonmattinozronncornchip
  • Reply 6 of 39
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,532member
    Say I travel to Europe and I buy local SIM there and replace it in my iPhone (actual scenario from life). So apart idiotic Apple soloution that requires me to find WiFi and reactivate phone because they feel I stole it from myself, how would purchase at local grocery store when I currently can buy SIM card would work for eSIM? Do I need to take invoice and fax machine to be able to do it and prove that iPhone is still mine? Thi is because Apple Poland tried to do to me... along these lines (it was actually business phone and iPad that I lost in the middle of no access to WiFi and we are talking main system in finance that I own in NYC). Let me know.

    I suggest that Apple should fix fundamental problems first instead of worring about supporting future technology by providers while it is unlikely to be supported in foreign countries for some time. Otherwise iPhone is a toy and not enterprise for business use... unfortunatelly. I wish it had no glitches like this because when it works it works well..
    Just because you have zero clue how an eSim functions doesn't mean there's something wrong with it.  
    2old4funolsGeorgeBMacJanNLjbdragonronnbonobobcornchip[Deleted User]jony0
  • Reply 7 of 39
    anomeanome Posts: 1,441member
    I suspect Telstra and Optus are also interfering with the adoption here.

    We should get rid of SIMs, and just be able to join whatever network we want whenever we want. As long as we're prepared to pay for it, why should they stop us?
    olsronn1983watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 39
    sergiozsergioz Posts: 338member
    eSIM should have been default technology long time ago, but big players don’t want to give up fish so easily! 
    edited April 2018 olsjbdragonronn1983watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 39
    Apple are being hypocrits.

    Yes, eSIM needs to succeed and within the context of that they are right to file a complaint.

    However...

    - Can I switch to another App Store on iOS?
    - Can I circumvent the 30% Apple tax when selling content on Apple’s App Store?
    - Can I use Siri to control Google Maps or Spotify?
    - Can I use CarPlay to run Google Maps?
    - Am I able to backup iCloud to another destination using an open API they provide?
    - Can Dropbox and Google Drive hook in the operating system the way iCloud does?

    The answer to all questions: NO.

    If there’s one company who wants to regain control over their ecosystem it’s Apple. Ten years ago it was unacceptable when Microsoft pushed Internet Explorer, and they were forced to change that. Apple is much worse in that regard and yet the crickets are chirping.

    Telco companies colluding is a bad thing for sure, but Apple has a monopoly so they are even worse: they don’t have to collude at all to reach the same goal.

    Disclaimer: I’m an Apple user and love their hardware and their OS. So no, I’m not running to Android. Being a fan of a brand doesn’t mean I agree with everything that brand does. 
    singularityols1983muthuk_vanalingamairnerd
  • Reply 10 of 39
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    - Can I switch to another App Store on iOS?
    - Can I circumvent the 30% Apple tax when selling content on Apple’s App Store?
    - Can I use Siri to control Google Maps or Spotify?
    - Can I use CarPlay to run Google Maps?
    - Am I able to backup iCloud to another destination using an open API they provide?
    - Can Dropbox and Google Drive hook in the operating system the way iCloud does?

    The answer to all questions: NO.
    And none of that is relevant to this. Apple providing a way to switch to Android (or Android manufacturers providing a way to switch to iOS), on the other hand, would be relevant. Apple provides a way to switch to iOS from Android, however, and I believe Google does the same for their own garbage.
    GeorgeBMacjbdragoncornchipjasenj1jony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 39
    Apple began working with Gemalto nearly a decade ago on SIM-less (M is for module, the removable plastic mini-card that GSM/LTE devices have always used) devices, and it was expected that iPhone 4S would ship without a SIM card. It was blocked by AT&T.

    "Apple SIM" was a second attempt to achieve device portability using a proprietary solution. Apple then pushed eSIM on Apple Watch 3, with some support of other vendors. Again it is mostly the big two US carriers who are against device portability, even after moving away from subsidising phones.

    You'd be surprised to find out how much tech Apple has developed only to have it blocked by partners/patent trolls/rivals. Apple never talks about the things it worked to do but failed to accomplish, because the only thing that can be accomplished by that is burning bridges. Perhaps eSIM will eventually make its way out, sealing another open hole on iPhones that otherwise needs needs a gasket and which takes up unnecessary space inside the device.
    edited April 2018 SoliolsGeorgeBMacronncornchipairnerdjasenj1llamawatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 39
    croprcropr Posts: 1,041member
    The SIM card as it was originally designed by R&D team of France Telecom, had 2 purposes: 
    1. the customer could easily swap between mobile operators, by putting a SIM card of a different mobile operator in his phone
    2. the customer could easily swap between mobile phones, by putting the existing SIM card in another phone
    The second point was as important as the first one.  In fact in the GSMA standards it is clearly defined that the only thing a customer needs to do to change phones, is the move the SIM card.  All settings, contacts, .... should be transparently moved to the new phone.  The SIM contains indeed some limited memory to store the contacts.  The SIM card was one of the main drivers to make sure that any mobile phone could work on any mobile network

    There have been various initiatives from both mobile phone vendors and mobile operators to extend this mechanism.  Mobile operators defined packages of subscription + mobile phone, where the SIM card was locked to a single phone.   Mobile vendors expanded heavily the internal memory of the phone to store contacts and other information, abandoning the contacts memory on the SIM card.  Both initiatives undermined the basic principles of the SIM card. 

    Remember the case where a woman filed a complaint because she did no longer received SMS messages after she moved from an iPhone to a non iOS phone.  The culprit was iMessage that violated point 2  and Apple had to solve the issue.

    The eSIM card makes the 2nd point (swapping phones) harder, certainly if the 2nd phone does not support eSIM, which is the case for 60% of phones on the world market.  As such it hampers customer choice.  This might change in the future if 80% or more of the mobile phones on the market will have an eSIM solution. 

    It is nice that Apple wants to innovate and make things better for the consumers.  But the complaint here has nothing to do with innovation.  In a sneaky way Apple just wants to make it harder for iPhone users to move away from iOS.
    edited April 2018 airnerdjasenj1
  • Reply 13 of 39
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,027member
    cropr said:
    The eSIM card makes the 2nd point (swapping phones) harder, certainly if the 2nd phone does not support eSIM, which is the case for 60% of phones on the world market.  As such it hampers customer choice.  This might change in the future if 80% or more of the mobile phones on the market have an eSIM solution. 
    1) The original SIM card was the size of the credit card. Based on your comment, you'd never want it to become a mini-SIM, and then a micro-SIM, and then a nano-SIM because, "(swapping phones) harder, certainly if the 2nd phone does not support" a different SIM card standard. Are you really saying that SIM cards should never have been reduced from the original because of the statement I quoted?

    2) It increases 
    customer choice moving that data to a new device would be even easier. Nothing that couldn't be done via NFC or other methods. It's an insanely small amount of data on a comparatively large plastic wafer which you want to keep using that are ridiculous. But, hey, the carriers love your position on this… which should be a huge clue that you're not thinking this through.
    GeorgeBMacjbdragonronnmattinozmuthuk_vanalingamllamawatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 39
    croprcropr Posts: 1,041member
    Soli said:
    cropr said:
    The eSIM card makes the 2nd point (swapping phones) harder, certainly if the 2nd phone does not support eSIM, which is the case for 60% of phones on the world market.  As such it hampers customer choice.  This might change in the future if 80% or more of the mobile phones on the market have an eSIM solution. 
    1) The original SIM card was the size of the credit card. Based on your comment, you'd never want it to become a mini-SIM, and then a micro-SIM, and then a nano-SIM because, "(swapping phones) harder, certainly if the 2nd phone does not support" a different SIM card standard. Are you really saying that SIM cards should never have been reduced from the original because of the statement I quoted?

    2) It increases 
    customer choice moving that data to a new device would be even easier. Nothing that couldn't be done via NFC or other methods. It's an insanely small amount of data on a comparatively large plastic wafer which you want to keep using that are ridiculous. But, hey, the carriers love your position on this… which should be a huge clue that you're not thinking this through.
    Operators always had a migration path.  When the mini SIM became available they offer a credit card sized SIM where the mini SIM could be punched out, the same when micro SIM and nano SIM were launched.  Like I said, the moment the market share of eSim becomes high enough, there will be no issue to drop an old SIM technology.  But as long the majority of the phones don't support eSIM, the customer choice is reduced and the operators cannot be forced to use it.     
    If a user is in the wild and his phones breaks down, he can  make calls and send/receive SMS if he puts him SIM card in another phone, even a feature phone.  This basic functionality should not be abandoned.  It is great that technology is getting better, but one should not give up basic functionality, that can sometimes be very crucial.
    muthuk_vanalingamairnerdfeudalist
  • Reply 15 of 39
    BenCBenC Posts: 12member

    If there’s one company who wants to regain control over their ecosystem it’s Apple. Ten years ago it was unacceptable when Microsoft pushed Internet Explorer, and they were forced to change that. Apple is much worse in that regard and yet the crickets are chirping.
     

    The problem was never with Microsoft building their ecosystem.  The problem was Microsoft abusing their monopoly in one market (PCs) to attempt to dominate another market (web browsers). Apple does not have a monopoly in any market.
    entropysjbdragonronncornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 39
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,287member
    Most of the comments here seem mostly concerned with the portability of existing phones.
    But, I don't think that is the real issue here:

    Instead, I see it as primarily an issue of restricting future (often miniaturized) products that need mobile data.  The Apple Watch is the first of those But I see more and more of those products in the pipeline over the next 10 years...

    As products become more pervasive and, as LTE progresses to challenge cable speeds and bandwidth, Product manufacturers are not going to want to be chained to intrusive 20 year old technology just to make life a little easier on the carriers.
    ronnmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 39
    roakeroake Posts: 738member
    Say I travel to Europe and I buy local SIM there and replace it in my iPhone (actual scenario from life). So apart idiotic Apple soloution that requires me to find WiFi and reactivate phone because they feel I stole it from myself, how would purchase at local grocery store when I currently can buy SIM card would work for eSIM? Do I need to take invoice and fax machine to be able to do it and prove that iPhone is still mine? Thi is because Apple Poland tried to do to me... along these lines (it was actually business phone and iPad that I lost in the middle of no access to WiFi and we are talking main system in finance that I own in NYC). Let me know.

    I suggest that Apple should fix fundamental problems first instead of worring about supporting future technology by providers while it is unlikely to be supported in foreign countries for some time. Otherwise iPhone is a toy and not enterprise for business use... unfortunatelly. I wish it had no glitches like this because when it works it works well..
    When I travel from the USA to the Philippines, I replace my SIM and use the iPhone without difficulty.  I have no access to WiFi.

    I don’t do anything special.  I’m not sure why it’s giving you grief.

    EDIT: My most recent trip was 3 years ago, perhaps changes in iOS.
    edited April 2018 JanNLwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 39
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,026member
    Apple are being hypocrits.

    Telco companies colluding is a bad thing for sure, but Apple has a monopoly so they are even worse: they don’t have to collude at all to reach the same goal.
    Apple has a monopoly on what exactly? Products people enjoy and like to buy?
    Solironncornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 39
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,027member
    cropr said:
    Soli said:
    cropr said:
    The eSIM card makes the 2nd point (swapping phones) harder, certainly if the 2nd phone does not support eSIM, which is the case for 60% of phones on the world market.  As such it hampers customer choice.  This might change in the future if 80% or more of the mobile phones on the market have an eSIM solution. 
    1) The original SIM card was the size of the credit card. Based on your comment, you'd never want it to become a mini-SIM, and then a micro-SIM, and then a nano-SIM because, "(swapping phones) harder, certainly if the 2nd phone does not support" a different SIM card standard. Are you really saying that SIM cards should never have been reduced from the original because of the statement I quoted?

    2) It increases customer choice moving that data to a new device would be even easier. Nothing that couldn't be done via NFC or other methods. It's an insanely small amount of data on a comparatively large plastic wafer which you want to keep using that are ridiculous. But, hey, the carriers love your position on this… which should be a huge clue that you're not thinking this through.
    Operators always had a migration path.  When the mini SIM became available they offer a credit card sized SIM where the mini SIM could be punched out, the same when micro SIM and nano SIM were launched.  Like I said, the moment the market share of eSim becomes high enough, there will be no issue to drop an old SIM technology.  But as long the majority of the phones don't support eSIM, the customer choice is reduced and the operators cannot be forced to use it.     
    If a user is in the wild and his phones breaks down, he can  make calls and send/receive SMS if he puts him SIM card in another phone, even a feature phone.  This basic functionality should not be abandoned.  It is great that technology is getting better, but one should not give up basic functionality, that can sometimes be very crucial.
    Good news! Basic functionality isn't be abandoned because SIM data isn't going away. It's like being against email (or any digital medium) and opting instead only for snail mail or carrier pigeon while arguing that email will kill the written word.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 39
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,027member
    lkrupp said:
    Apple are being hypocrits.

    Telco companies colluding is a bad thing for sure, but Apple has a monopoly so they are even worse: they don’t have to collude at all to reach the same goal.
    Apple has a monopoly on what exactly? Products people enjoy and like to buy?
    I feel like the people that are so quick to say that Apple has no relevant market share are also the first to claim that Apple has a monopoly.
    cornchipairnerdwatto_cobra
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