Google already ventured into the world of phone service with a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) service called Project Fi. A recent report hinted that Apple aims to enter the competition to control every aspect of your phone with its own MVNO service. Shortly afterward, Apple denied that it has any plans to become a phone service provider.
Apple’s statement seems to definitively squash the idea that it’s working on a phone service, despite a recent report from Business Insider.
According to sources close to Apple that spoke with the publication, Apple is already testing an MVNO service that would allow users in the U.S. and Europe to pay Apple for their calls, texts, and data. Apple would provide an SIM to its customers that would work with any carrier and simply choose the best available signal. Telecoms would simply auction off part of their capacity to provide Apple with access to their respective networks.
The report alleged that Apple is already in talks with telecoms in the U.S. and Europe. Business Insider’s source claims that Apple’s MVNO plans are the industry’s best-kept “open secret,” and that the company has been planning this move for years. Indeed, back in 2006, Apple filed a patent for a MVNO service, which it has since applied to expand. Of course, telecom sources told the publication that Apple’s MVNO plans may not go public for another five years.
Regardless, a few of Apple’s recent moves could hint at the firm’s interest in services that are traditionally provided by telecoms. Recently, sources mentioned that Apple will take on voicemail with its own system in the near future. The so-called iCloud Voicemail feature would enlist the help of Siri to transcribe your voicemail messages and more. Additionally, the Apple SIM, which came with the iPad Air 2 and works on any carrier’s network, reveals that the company has strong ties with carriers, and is ready to offer a SIM that works on all the networks.
Of course, not every MVNO service succeeds — both ESPN and Disney failed — and others offer shoddy service. If such plans do exist, Apple is expected to wait to reveal its MVNO service until it can deliver a high-quality service that truly is seamless.
Even though Project Fi is still limited to a select group of users who happen to own a Nexus 6 and who got an invite from Google, it still has huge potential to shake up the carrier space.
Updated on 8-04-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added statement from Apple declaring that it has no plans to become an MVNO.