& cplSiteName &

Apple MVNO Rumors Resurface With a Twist

Sarah Thomas
8/3/2015
50%
50%

In a case of old rumors becoming new again, Apple is in talks to launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) service in both the US and Europe, Business Insider reported on Monday.

Business Insider reporter James Cook [Ed. Note: Tim Cook's British nephew? Nah.] suggests that Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) is privately trialing the mobile service in the US, and is in talks with telecom companies in Europe to bring it there as well.

As an MVNO, Apple would wholesale capacity on various operators' wireless networks and sell service directly to consumers, much like FreedomPop , Republic Wireless , Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and a number of other companies do. (See FreedomPop Gets a $10M Asian Infusion, What the Helio? MVNO Is Back After First Flop and Google's WiFi-First Mobile Service 'Fi' Is Here.)

It could take Apple five years or more to get its MVNO off the ground, if it ever does, Business Insider suggests. But, it says, its plans are moving along now that it's testing iCloud Message, a service to automatically transcribe voicemail messages using Siri, rather than store voicemail services with the wireless operators.


For more on wireless MVNOs, visit the mobile content section here on Light Reading.


Apple MVNO rumors have been circulating for a decade now, resurfacing most recently last year when Apple launched its global SIM to let customers connect to multiple networks, but only on the iPad Air 2 or iPad Mini 3. (See Apple Global SIM Could Drive Connected Cars, iPad Air 2 Lets Users Switch Carriers Any Time and Apple as Mobile Operator?)

Industry consultant Whitey Bluestein has also long believed an Apple MVNO is inevitable, though he sees it shaping up a bit differently to what Business Insider suggests.

Rather than launch a fully fledged wireless service that competes with the wireless operators that sell its iPhone, Bluestein sees Apple selling the connectivity into non-smartphone devices like the iPad and its line of Mac computers. It already makes so much money on its iPhones in the carrier channel that the need to go around them just isn't there.

"To me, adding connectivity to non-phone devices and letting the iPhone juggernaut continue to generate the kinds of profit it does is probably the way for them to optimize their business," Bluestein says.

In this model, Apple would buy data in bulk from wireless operators across the globe and bill for it -- by time used or gigabytes -- through iTunes. This is something it could get up and running immediately if it wanted to, Bluestein says. It already has iTunes as a proven billing mechanism; a patent it filed in 2006 covers its need to use multiple networks; and it has already developed a global SIM.

"I also think they don't upset their carrier relationships if they provide connectivity options outside the carrier roaming areas where data roaming charges are so high," Bluestein adds. "That could be a fairly large business. It's not that a lot of US people travel internationally with iPads, but the ones that do are desperate for options."

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

(10)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
nasimson
50%
50%
nasimson,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/26/2015 | 12:28:29 PM
Disruption
Apple MVNO or ESIM makes perfect sense both for iphones and ipads. Apple will disrupt the telecom industry just as it disrupted the music, publishing and phone industries.
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
8/4/2015 | 2:05:33 PM
Re: Apple denies MVNO talk
I didn't think it bothered to publicly deny a lot of rumors or even acknowledge them. 
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
8/4/2015 | 2:02:56 PM
Re: Apple denies MVNO talk
Apple has a tendency to deny it's doing things until it does them. 
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
8/4/2015 | 11:53:10 AM
Apple denies MVNO talk
Apple has responded to the rumors, saying it has not discussed & is not planning an MVNO cellular service. Not sure if this rules out the data-only non-smartphone idea that Bluestein presented though.
Rahul_atri
50%
50%
Rahul_atri,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/4/2015 | 1:52:54 AM
Re: Here's a perspective
As said, for Apple this seems to be an attempt to be in the race. Being a closed box (software iOS), not as open as android OS / phones are, it comes natural to offer MVNO services rather than OTT applications. The smart decisions to switch operators with built in services is the new form contracts with e-Sims i guess.
Rahul_atri
50%
50%
Rahul_atri,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/4/2015 | 1:52:54 AM
Re: Here's a perspective
As said, for Apple this seems to be an attempt to be in the race. Being a closed box (software iOS), not as open as android OS / phones are, it comes natural to offer MVNO services rather than OTT applications. The smart decisions to switch operators with built in services is the new form contracts with e-Sims i guess.
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
8/3/2015 | 7:20:33 PM
Makes sense

An MVNO for Macs makes sense. Users carrying iPhones, iPads, and MacBook Airs in their briefcases wonder why only two of those devices have non-WiFi wireless connections. 

Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
8/3/2015 | 4:15:47 PM
Re: Here's a perspective
Really interesting perspective. Thank you for sharing.

If spectrum is such a finite resource, the wireless operators are in big trouble too. That's why we've seen them rely on WiFi so much more than they have in the past (alongside small cells, refarming, auctions, 5G and everything else they're doing). More competition -- from Apple or anyone -- is good for consumers, but I'm not sure I see Apple views it as necessary to survive. WiFi can only go so far, so it's still in trouble if it's wholesaling cellular networks that are in trouble, as you say.
CEO&Chai78815
100%
0%
CEO&Chai78815,
User Rank: Lightning
8/3/2015 | 4:08:14 PM
Here's a perspective
So here's what's changed since the last time such rumours hit the headlines: The 'do nothing' option (meaning staying out of the service provider business) is likely wearing thin. If it is true (as was recently suggested) that Verizon will run out of cellular capacity in a couple of years, then companies like Apple have real problem. Google's Project Fi is another indicator that the 'do nothing' won't work any more. In other words: If the regular service provider market cannot provide the amount of connectivity at the right price that Apple needs to sustain growth, then Apple will need to do something. 

The best best (as alluded to here) is to include Wi-Fi in the mix, as Republic, etc. are doing already. Look at the numbers: Ruckus Wireless just posted stellar Q2 results, while cellular vendors are doing - well - not much in terms of growth at all. High-quality Wi-Fi is going up everywhere including in public places. That's the network that Apple needs to tap into. It's growing both in footprint & performance - much faster than celluar, at af fraction of the deployment cost. BTW it will take another 6-8 years for anything along the lines of cellular 5G to emerge. Nobody will want to wait that long. 

Apple will very likely need to do something on the connectivity front fairly soon. One approach would be like that of Amazon - bundle connectivity with content/services. Microsoft will likely do the same with their new Wi-Fi service. 

 

 
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
8/3/2015 | 3:59:20 PM
Apple v Google
A lot of comparisons have been made between Apple and Google, which recently launched an MVNO, but the business drivers are very different. Google is all about extending its search business and lowering the cost of connectivity across the board, whereas Apple is sitting pretty when it comes to its partnerships with the wireless operators. Apple also doesn't have a big WiFi business like Google does. I think Bluestein's prediction for an Apple MVNO is the only one that makes sense.
From The Founder
Either we perform a complete 'factory reset' on the way the telecom industry creates and deploys virtualization, or we face the consequences.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
The Urgency of Commercial 5G Services

4|26|17   |     |   (0) comments


The progress of 5G has been closely monitored in the industry. At the 2017 Brooklyn 5G Summit, the sense of urgency for a commercial 5G launch had started to surface among operators.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
How Diversity Helps Comcast Mirror Its Customer Base

4|26|17   |   2:55   |   (0) comments


Diversity brings innovation, creative ideas and a way to reflect the broad spectrum of your customer base, Comcast Director of Customer Experience Jenelle Champlin says.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Mobile Operators & Video

4|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


Ovum's Ed Barton discusses the latest mobile operator strategies for mobile video.
LRTV Custom TV
Infinera Introduces Instant Network

4|20|17   |     |   (1) comment


Mike Capuano, vice president of marketing at Infinera, discusses the advancement from Instant Bandwidth to new Instant Network capabilities, which include Bandwidth License Pools, Moveable Licenses and Automated Capacity Engineering (ACE).
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Vodafone's Eubank on Sponsors, Mentors & Moving On Up

4|19|17   |   4:25   |   (0) comments


Vodafone America's Head of Operations Kimberly Eubank breaks down the difference between a sponsor and a mentor and shares why both made a big difference in her career.
LRTV Custom TV
NYC Auto Show: Are We Smart Yet?

4|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


The auto industry is facing some big transformations as electric vehicles, autonomous technology and connected cars are seen as the future of the industry. During the much-anticipated NY international auto show, there was an emergence of new technology and mobility service on the show floor. Aside from performance, brands like Lincoln, Hyundai, Honda, Mercedes and ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Impact of Video

4|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


David Mercer from Strategy Analytics discusses the impact of video on current strategies.
LRTV Custom TV
Pardeep Kohli Discusses Network Transformation & the Market Opportunity for the 'New' Mavenir Systems

4|13|17   |     |   (0) comments


In a brief discussion at MWC 2017, Heavy Reading analyst Adi Kishore talks to Pardeep Kohli, CEO, Mavenir Systems about the creation of the 'new Mavenir' and some of the key challenges facing operators in today's market. A key theme of the discussion centers around operator need for software-only, virtualized solutions and how they will need to adapt to ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Tech Maverick Shares Her Tips for Gender Inclusivity

4|12|17   |   7:28   |   (0) comments


Wendy Hall Bohling, a corporate escapee, author and gender exclusivity consultant, tells her story of sexism, bias and progress along the road to gender equality in the workforce.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei at MWC 2017

4|11|17   |     |   (0) comments


At Mobile World Congress 2017, the biggest mobile industry gathering of the year, Huawei showcased its new innovations and solutions with the theme "Open Road," which focuses on cloud, 5G, operation transformation, videos and consumer-oriented products. Its campaign has been recognized by three awards given by GSMA.
LRTV Custom TV
China Telecom NFV Infrastructure on RSD

4|6|17   |     |   (0) comments


Lynn Comp, senior director of market development of Intel, is joined by Chong Zhang, storage engineer at Inspur and Ou Li Yan, architect for technology strategies of China Telecom, for a discussion of what NFV brings.
LRTV Custom TV
Nokia's IMPACT Software Demo

4|6|17   |     |   (0) comments


Khamis Abulgubein of IoT market development at Nokia demonstrates IMPACT (intelligent management platform for all connected things), a software solution with a horizontal approach to managing any device on any application.
Upcoming Live Events
May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
May 15, 2017, Brazos Hall - Austin, TX
May 15, 2017, Austin Convention Center - Austin, TX
June 6, 2017, The Joule Hotel, Dallas, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Surprise! AT&T Markets 4G Advances as '5G Evolution'
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/25/2017
Did Verizon Outbid AT&T for Straight Path?
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/25/2017
First Year TIPs the Scale Toward Success
Denise Culver, 4/24/2017
Verizon: Small Biz in Cybercrooks' Crosshairs
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 4/27/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.