WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation into potential coordination by AT&T, Verizon and a telecommunications standards organization to hinder consumers from easily switching wireless carriers, according to six people with knowledge of the inquiry.
In February, the Justice Department issued demands to AT&T, Verizon and the G.S.M.A., a mobile industry standards-setting group, for information on potential collusion to thwart a technology known as eSIM, said two of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details are confidential.
The technology lets people remotely switch wireless providers without having to insert a new SIM card into a device. AT&T and Verizon face accusations that they colluded with the G.S.M.A. to try to establish standards that would allow them to lock a device to their network even if it had eSIM technology.
The investigation was opened about five months ago after at least one device maker and one wireless carrier filed formal complaints with the Justice Department, two of the people said. The device maker was Apple, one of them said.
Representatives for the Justice Department, the G.S.M.A. and Apple declined to comment.
In a statement, a Verizon spokesman confirmed that the carrier had been working with the Justice Department for several months on the inquiry because of “a difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of eSIM standards.” He said the issue was “much ado about nothing.”
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