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CEO DATELINE – Justice Department ends investigation into mobile network association

Dec. 2, 2019
By Walt Williams

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The U.S. Department of Justice has closed a nearly two-year investigation into a global trade association for mobile network operators after the group agreed to adopt new procedures addressing the agency’s concerns about potential antitrust violations.

The Justice Department opened an investigation into the GSM Association in 2017 out of concern the group was leveraging its industry influence to steer the design of embedded SIM (abbreviated as eSIM) technology in mobile phones. While currently not widely adopted, eSIM essentially ends the need for removable SIM cards in phones.

Federal investigators concluded GSMA had potentially violated antitrust law. However, the association has since drafted new procedures that will give non-operator members more input in drafting technology standards, satisfying the concerns raised during the investigation.

“I am pleased that the GSMA is ready to use its standard-setting process to create a more consumer-friendly eSIM standard,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said in a statement. “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.”

GSMA is a standards-setting body headquartered in London but has offices Atlanta and San Francisco. It was formed in 1982 as Groupe Speciale Mobile.