iPhone 6 Plus (hand 001)

You might be able to replace your dreaded carrier with Apple by 2020 as the company is reportedly in talks to launch its own virtual network service in the United States and Europe, Business Insider reports.

A mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, leases mobile network capacity rather than own spectrum or run expensive wireless network infrastructure.

According to Business Insider’s sources in the know, carriers would auction capacity to Apple so it could run the service itself. The Cupertino firm “is privately trialling” an MVNO service in the United States, the story goes, and is negotiating with wireless carriers in Europe about bringing the service to that continent.

If Apple decides to offer a MVNO service, it will take “at least five years” to fully launch, as per telecoms sources who spoke to the publication. It’s apparently “open secret” among carriers that a virtual Apple network is on the way.

By purchasing bulk access to network services at wholesale rates, MVNO providers can set retail prices independently and in some examples manage to undercut the carriers they lease network capacity from.

If Apple becomes a MVNO provider, you’ll be paying them monthly charges for cellular data, phone calls and texts. Curiously enough, Apple in 2012 patented a technology that would automatically switch between multiple wireless carriers, yet another indication that the firm sees itself becoming a MVNO operator.

This is also where the Apple SIM could show its full potential.

apple sim

Even as the iPhone is reportedly working with cell providers on a new electronic SIM standard, it’s developed its own SIM card called the Apple SIM which allows iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 owners to switch wireless service easily between T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T in the United States, and EE in the United Kingdom, right within the Settings app and on the fly.

An Apple-run wireless service could benefit tremendously from 850+ million credit cards iTunes has on file, 456 Apple retail stores around the world (190 of which are outside the U.S.), world-class support as well as from the strong gravitational pull of the Apple brand.

Business Insider also said today Apple was testing an ‘iCloud Voicemail’ service said to automatically transcribe voicemail messages using Siri, due in 2016 with iOS 10.

Typically, the outlet isn’t a very reliable source of Apple rumors, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard the MVNO report—quite the contrary.

Talks of an Apple MVNO have persisted for years.

Steve Jobs and Stan Sigman

Ever since Steve Jobs took the MacWorld stage in January 2007 to deliver his career-defining iPhone presentation, the technology world has been speculating that the only reasons Apple chose AT&T as the exclusive U.S. carrier for the original iPhone stemmed from the technical hurdles preventing it from becoming a MVNO at the time.

Steve’s hatred for carriers is legendary.

“He wanted to replace carriers,” John Stanton, chairman of venture capital firm Trilogy Partners, said of Steve in 2011. “He and I spent a lot of time talking about whether synthetically you could create a carrier using Wi-Fi spectrum. That was part of his vision.”

An interesting presentation analyst Whitey Bluestein gave at the 2012 Barcelona Informa MVNO Industry Summit features the following takeaways:

  • Apple will bundle data with their tablets
  • Customers will buy data plan, and roaming, in iTunes Store
  • Apple will offer voice and data roaming plans in iTunes Store for iPhones
  • Apple will become full MVNO, with nanoSIM in all devices, provisioned and subscribed through iTunes

Let’s pretend Apple’s become an MVNO.

It the firm offered competitive prices—and assuming greedy carriers would be willing to sell network capacity to Tim Cook & Co. in the first place—would you consider ditching your carrier for Apple?

Source: Business Insider