DOJ Rebukes GSMA Over eSim Standard for Mobile Devices

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The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division said Monday the Global System for Mobile Communications, originally Groupe Spécial Mobile (GSMA) used its industry influence to steer the design of eSIMs technology in mobile devices. GSMA is a trade association for mobile network operators. The findings were revealed in a nearly two-year long investigation, according to the DOJ.

As a result, the GSMA drafted new standard setting procedures that will incorporate more input from non-operator members of the mobile communications industry. The parties say there’s a better chance the new process will create procompetitive benefits for consumers. It will also curb the ability of network operators to use the GSMA standard as a way to avoid new forms of disruptive competition that the embedded eSIMs technology may unleash.

The GSMA told the DOJ it intends to adopt the new procedures and sought a business review letter from the Antitrust Division. After completing its investigation, the division issued a letter that expressed concern about the past procedures and some of the resulting provisions in the standard. The letter concludes, however, that the proposed changes appear to adequately address those concerns.

For now, the DOJ does not intend to bring an enforcement action against the GSMA or its mobile network operator members. “I am pleased that the GSMA is ready to use its standard-setting process to create a more consumer-friendly eSIM standard,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim. “The GSMA’s old procedures resulted in certain eSIMs rules that benefitted only its incumbent mobile network operators at the risk of innovation and American consumers. The new procedures proposed going forward significantly reduce that risk and should result in new innovative offerings for consumers.”

The telecom industry has begun to migrate away from traditional SIM cards—a removable plastic card that is preprogrammed to connect to a single mobile network—and toward eSIMs. They perform the same function as a SIM card but are soldered into the device, and can be remotely programmed and re-programmed to connect to different operators’ mobile networks. 

December 3, 2019

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