Mobile Carrier Collusion Investigation Puts eSIM Standard On Hold

“There are many stakeholders around the world that will now be keeping a close eye on how this unfolds, and hoping it is over with quickly. eSIMs represent the next step forward in mobile communications architecture, and are being built into not just traditional mobile devices but other kinds of products including laptops and even connected cars.”

The GSMA has put its work on a new eSIM standard “on hold” while it cooperates with a Department of Justice investigation.

Mobile Carrier Collusion Investigation Puts eSIM Standard On HoldThe investigation appears to concern only one provision of the standard, which would allow an eSIM to be locked. It’s a counterintuitive idea: The whole point of eSIM technology is that it allows for the wireless subscription services of smartphones and other devices to be easily changed, without the need for a physical SIM to be swapped, whereas this provision appears to be designed to let mobile carriers lock users’ devices to their own networks, deliberately limiting the eSIM’s flexibility. The Department of Justice launched its investigation into this provision after receiving information indicating that it’s the product of collusion between the GSMA, AT&T, and Verizon.

In a statement, the GSMA asserted that under the provision in question, consumers “would need to explicitly consent to this under specific commercial agreements with their mobile operator, for example when purchasing a subsidised device.” In other words, the provision is meant to address the standard smartphone contracts of today, in which customers agree to multi-year subscriptions with particular service providers in exchange for lower prices on smartphones and other devices.

“The GSMA is cooperating fully with the Department of Justice in this matter,” the statement added.

There are many stakeholders around the world that will now be keeping a close eye on how this unfolds, and hoping it is over with quickly. eSIMs represent the next step forward in mobile communications architecture, and are being built into not just traditional mobile devices but other kinds of products including laptops and even connected cars. The idea is that SIM technology that can be programmed remotely can help to deliver wireless network access to a whole range of consumer products; in a sense, it’s a critical component of the infrastructure of the emerging Internet of Things. But with the GSMA’s standard now on hold, there’s a certain fog around how to proceed for these device makers.

Sources: GSMA, Engadget, The Verge