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AT&T, Verizon Under US Investigation For Collusion To Lock In Customers (nytimes.com) 39

bongey writes: AT&T and Verizon are currently under investigation for colluding with the GSMA standards group to thwart eSIM technology and hinder consumers from easily switching wireless carriers. eSIM technology lets people remotely switch wireless providers without having to insert a new SIM card into a device. According to The New York Times, the two companies "face accusations that they colluded with the GSMA to try to establish standards that would allow them to lock a device to their network even if it had eSIM technology." The Justice Department opened the investigation roughly five months ago after at least one device maker and one wireless carrier filed formal complaints. Compare cell plans at Wirefly to see the current plans being offered by AT&T and Verizon.
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AT&T, Verizon Under US Investigation For Collusion To Lock In Customers

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  • Instead of a carrier lock, I'll have a device lock. How can I be sure that I can move my network ID from one phone to another? And what about that pocket full of SIM cards that I can just plug in when I go overseas?

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday April 20, 2018 @08:18PM (#56475197)
    like to complain about their cell carriers. If I suggest we regulate they don't like that because regulation's bad, m'kay. If I suggest we break them up they don't like that because they don't want to pay roaming charges. If I suggest we leave them alone they complain about stuff like this.

    Well, we either do something or we do nothing, but the cell phone companies are going to do stuff whether we like it or not.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      They whine on every topic no matter how trivial. The same reasons are always to blame - Obama, liberals, regulations, feminists, and elitist educated types telling me to read.

  • Verizon and co colluded to prevent people from switching from easily changed SIM cards to some electronic system that'd make it harder to switch carriers? Verizon?

    And now they're being sued for being anti-competitive?

    Is this bizarro world?

    *checks who the President is*

    Oh wait, yes, yes it is. We're in the worst timeline, which means somehow Verizon has temporarily become one of the good guys. Weird.

    • by tgeek ( 941867 )

      Verizon and co colluded to prevent people from switching from easily changed SIM cards to some electronic system that'd make it harder to switch carriers? Verizon?

      And now they're being sued for being anti-competitive?

      Is this bizarro world?

      You really misunderstood something. In an ESIM device, there is no SIM slot. A generic SIM (or UICC) is permanently embedded into the device. When you activate it on the carrier, that ESIM is programmed with your carrier's data. AT&T and Verizon are being accused of trying to prevent (or just make it harder) for the ESIM to be reprogrammed if you move to another carrier. Essentially locking the entire device to their network after the initial programming.

      • I understood it full well. Getting rid of the SIM slot makes it harder to change carriers. The entire point of the SIM slot is to make changing carriers easier. The second half of your comment bears no relationship to Verizon et al's opposition to eSIM.
        • by tgeek ( 941867 )
          Most people would consider "physically obtaining a SIM card + setting up an account with a new carrier" to be more effort than just "setting up an account with a new carrier". Clearly your understanding is different. For the rest of us, this investigation seeks to keep the latter option the simplest without Verizon or AT&T putting hurdles in the way.
        • by tgeek ( 941867 )
          BTW, nobody opposes eSIMS technology. Not Verizon, not AT&T. In fact, it's integral for making wearables and very small IoT LTE-enabled devices. The problem is AT&T and Verizon are trying to corrupt the standards into giving them the ability to lock a device to their networks. I don't know anybody who thinks locked devices are a great consumer-friendly idea.
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @06:42AM (#56476923)

    It's only better if the entire process can be handled without dealing with a carrier storefront activation process, otherwise swapping SIM cards is dead easy and gives the carrier you're moving from absolutely no way to block it (barring a carrier locked phone).

    Will phone makers have some magic process that allows me to enter the data held by the SIM (and, ideally, save it, so I can e-switch between eSIM profiles)? Please tell me it won't involve a web site or some other transactional system that won't work in half the countries, half the time.

    Part of me thinks eSIM makes some sense but it also seems like the prime beneficiary are Apple and other handset makers who are wringing their hands over physical ports, not consumers who want to change carriers.

    And as usual, it's easy to see how the handset makers and carriers will collude against the consumer. The carriers will give in to the handset makers desire to not have a slot, the handset makers will make sure switching eSIM data is complicated and requires a store visit or some other carrier impediment.

    • by tgeek ( 941867 )
      Bad news, swb. The programming process is driven by the carriers. Normally via a webpage connected to their provisioning systems. You basically sign up for service with a carrier, the carrier sends a request to an SMDP+ provider, and the SMDP+ provider gathers up all the information (assigns an IMSI, etc.) and creates a profile and sends it to the device. This is a current project I'm involved with at work (I work for a large regional cell provider)

      While Apple and other device manufacturers surely appr
      • by tgeek ( 941867 )
        Regarding the actual article: "Verizon has said it needed to be able to lock down phones to prevent theft and fraud". I guess in theory, they don't want you to be able to take your eSIM device to another carrier while you have an outstanding balance at Verizon. I'd call bullshit on that - they have plenty of avenues to get the money they're legitimately owed without locking down devices.
      • by swb ( 14022 )

        Bad news, swb. The programming process is driven by the carriers. Normally via a webpage connected to their provisioning systems. You basically sign up for service with a carrier, the carrier sends a request to an SMDP+ provider, and the SMDP+ provider gathers up all the information (assigns an IMSI, etc.) and creates a profile and sends it to the device. This is a current project I'm involved with at work (I work for a large regional cell provider)

        So how the hell does a person do this within an hour of landing at a foreign airport, especially in a third world country?

        When I went to London I planned ahead and had a friend in the UK buy and activate a pay as you go SIM from Asda for me. He mailed it over, and I had it with me on the plane. But even if I hadn't planned ahead, there were a whole mess of SIM card vendors at the airport and it would have been easy to get one on the spot. I had my phone up on a local UK number/plan before we left the air

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          So how the hell does a person do this within an hour of landing at a foreign airport, especially in a third world country?

          Easy. You'd go to your device, click "subscribe to new service" or whatever, and you'd get a list of providers, pick one, log in or create a new account, and your phone either grabs the existing account, or creates a new one and activates itself.

          Remember, the goal is to buy a device, and then have the ability to at your leisure pick a provider from the on-screen menu.

          Apple loves this bec

  • As far as locking is concerned, if you've paid outright for a device, it's yours and shouldn't be locked. If you have a subsidized or financed phone, I'd concede to (though I still don't like it) locking only for the period of time that it takes the carrier to recoup its value or the phone is paid off. As for ESIMS, I don't know much about them to speak to that issue, only that portability is a good thing and if that helps with that I'm good. My biggest beef with the wireless carriers here in the US is tha

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