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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 2:58 PM
Updated: Apr 22, 2018 2:58 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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 587762

Reported Deaths: 7324
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1217771724
Ramsey50848870
Dakota45493446
Anoka41276436
Washington26615280
Stearns22077221
St. Louis17637302
Scott17137124
Wright15873139
Olmsted1316498
Sherburne1157185
Carver1041645
Clay811792
Rice7991106
Blue Earth744441
Crow Wing658688
Kandiyohi650683
Chisago589051
Otter Tail571778
Benton563697
Goodhue474972
Mower463732
Douglas463674
Winona451850
Itasca428053
McLeod420258
Morrison416260
Isanti415364
Nobles407148
Beltrami391058
Steele383915
Polk382268
Becker377950
Lyon359250
Carlton343553
Freeborn340729
Pine326222
Nicollet322743
Brown304040
Mille Lacs300352
Le Sueur288222
Todd280432
Cass269028
Meeker253740
Waseca236222
Martin229731
Roseau207519
Wabasha20473
Hubbard186341
Dodge18313
Renville178643
Redwood172636
Houston171315
Cottonwood164221
Fillmore155310
Wadena154522
Pennington153619
Chippewa151638
Faribault151119
Kanabec143224
Sibley142310
Aitkin133936
Watonwan13189
Rock127819
Jackson121811
Pipestone114726
Yellow Medicine113820
Pope10916
Murray10609
Swift104818
Stevens90211
Marshall87817
Clearwater86116
Koochiching81715
Lake80819
Wilkin80412
Lac qui Parle75022
Big Stone5984
Lincoln5773
Grant5678
Mahnomen5459
Norman5399
Unassigned48693
Kittson48422
Red Lake3957
Traverse3685
Lake of the Woods3213
Cook1590

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 365723

Reported Deaths: 5925
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57406622
Linn20778334
Scott19903240
Black Hawk15777308
Woodbury15105228
Johnson1444083
Dubuque13347209
Dallas1114698
Pottawattamie11082168
Story1058248
Warren575088
Clinton552792
Cerro Gordo537889
Sioux513474
Webster511493
Marshall482075
Muscatine476299
Des Moines453266
Wapello4288122
Buena Vista424240
Jasper417771
Plymouth400480
Lee374255
Marion361075
Jones297357
Henry290837
Carroll285152
Bremer283360
Crawford265840
Boone263334
Benton255455
Washington253650
Dickinson247843
Mahaska229551
Jackson221142
Kossuth215264
Clay215125
Tama209171
Delaware208740
Winneshiek196834
Page192622
Buchanan190531
Cedar189223
Hardin184943
Fayette184741
Wright184236
Harrison179373
Hamilton179249
Clayton169456
Butler164634
Mills161722
Madison161419
Floyd160142
Cherokee158538
Lyon157541
Poweshiek154733
Allamakee150951
Iowa148224
Hancock147034
Winnebago141631
Cass137854
Calhoun137313
Grundy136233
Emmet134140
Jefferson132335
Shelby130537
Sac130119
Union128133
Appanoose127949
Louisa127849
Mitchell125842
Chickasaw123915
Guthrie120829
Humboldt118826
Franklin118121
Palo Alto112423
Howard104422
Montgomery103238
Clarke99824
Unassigned9770
Keokuk95531
Monroe95129
Ida90234
Adair86332
Pocahontas85322
Monona82830
Davis82524
Osceola78216
Greene77610
Lucas77123
Worth7428
Taylor65712
Fremont6229
Decatur6069
Van Buren55718
Ringgold55524
Wayne53623
Audubon50710
Adams3384
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