Universal SIM card rollout faces another hurdle

The rollout of universal SIM cards, called eSIM, could be delayed because of an investigation into whether wireless c...

Posted: Apr 22, 2018 3:58 PM
Updated: Apr 22, 2018 3:58 PM

The rollout of universal SIM cards, called eSIM, could be delayed because of an investigation into whether wireless carriers colluded to make it more difficult for customers to switch service providers.

GSMA, a group that works to set eSIM standards for the wireless industry, said Saturday that the latest version of eSIM standards is "on hold pending the completion" of a US Department of Justice probe. The group added that it's "cooperating fully" in the investigation.

The standards are meant to serve as an agreement between service providers and smart device manufacturers - from Apple to Samsung - on eSIM card use.

eSIM cards are designed to be more customer friendly because they allow people to switch their wireless carrier without having to install a new card on their device.

The technology for eSIM cards already exists, but it's essentially useless if wireless providers and device manufacturers can't agree on how it should be used. That's why the GSMA standards are so important.

The New York Times reported Friday that the DOJ is looking into whether the nation's largest carriers, AT&T and Verizon, coordinated with GSMA on proposed new standards that would give the companies the ability to lock customers into a wireless carrier, even if their devices have eSIM cards. That could violate US antitrust law.

A source also confirmed to CNNMoney that the DOJ sent letters to Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and GSMA earlier this year. All four service providers aren't necessarily targets of the probe.

Related: AT&T antitrust trial comes down to testimony from AT&T CEO

A Verizon spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the DOJ's investigation is "much ado about nothing."

"The reality is that we have a difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of e-SIM standards. Nothing more," the statement reads. "We've been proactively and constructively working with the Department of Justice for several months regarding this inquiry and we continue to do so."

An AT&T spokesperson also said in a statement Friday that it has provided information to investigators and will "continue to work proactively" to move the eSIM issue forward.

Related: Justice Department opens investigation into wireless carriers

T-Mobile did not respond to inquiries from CNNMoney, and Sprint declined to comment on the matter.

Carriers aren't thrilled with the eSIM concept because it makes it easier for customers to leave their networks, says Craig Moffett, a telecom industry analyst at MoffettNathanson.

"It's no secret that none of the carriers have been eager to embrace the idea," Moffett said.

Most SIM cards in use today are exclusively linked to a carrier, forcing customers that want to switch service providers to buy a new SIM card and physically swap it out on their device.

eSIM technology, introduced in 2016, aims to eliminate that process with built-in cards that can easily swap wireless providers remotely with a software update.

The Apple Watch 3, some iPad models, the Google Pixel 2 smartphone and the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet, for example, all come with eSIM cards.

But eSIM cards are not yet widely used in the United States, and some devices that have eSIM cards can't necessarily link up to any network.

Verizon, for example, does not support eSIM-connected service for Apple iPads or Google Pixel 2s.

This isn't the first time eSIM standards have become the target of a DOJ probe. Officials launched a similar investigation in 2016 ahead of the adoption of an early set of GSMA rules, but investigators ultimately dropped the case due to a lack of evidence, as The Washington Post reported Saturday.

-CNN's Seth Fiegerman and Hadas Gold contributed to this report.

West Lafayette
Few Clouds
85° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 88°
Kokomo
Scattered Clouds
89° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 94°
Rensselaer
Scattered Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 75°
Fowler
Scattered Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 75°
Williamsport
Clear
92° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 98°
Crawfordsville
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 92°
Frankfort
Clear
90° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 97°
Delphi
Clear
92° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 95°
Monticello
Clear
92° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 95°
Logansport
Clear
91° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 97°
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 48524

Reported Deaths: 2698
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11682684
Lake5180242
Elkhart330146
Allen2798132
St. Joseph196466
Cass16389
Hamilton1563101
Hendricks1410100
Johnson1288118
Porter73237
Tippecanoe7268
Madison65964
Clark65544
Bartholomew58644
LaPorte58026
Howard57757
Kosciusko5494
Vanderburgh5486
Marshall4904
Noble48228
Jackson4723
LaGrange4709
Hancock45035
Boone44543
Delaware44550
Shelby42625
Floyd38144
Morgan32931
Monroe30028
Grant29526
Montgomery29420
Clinton2892
Henry27415
Dubois2736
White26510
Decatur25032
Lawrence24625
Dearborn23823
Vigo2358
Harrison21822
Warrick21829
Unassigned193193
Greene18932
Miami1832
Jennings17611
Putnam1698
DeKalb1624
Scott1627
Daviess14317
Wayne1406
Orange13623
Perry1299
Steuben1292
Franklin1248
Jasper1212
Ripley1177
Wabash1122
Carroll1102
Fayette997
Newton9810
Starke933
Whitley925
Gibson812
Huntington812
Randolph794
Wells731
Fulton721
Jefferson722
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox640
Clay604
Rush583
Adams501
Owen491
Benton480
Sullivan451
Posey420
Brown391
Spencer381
Blackford372
Crawford320
Fountain322
Tipton321
Switzerland270
Parke230
Martin220
Ohio170
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike110

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events