Report: Apple Testing MVNO in U.S., Mulling European Service Deal
Apple (AAPL) reportedly is quietly testing a mobile virtual network operating (MVNO) service of its own in the U.S. and also discussing the prospects of launching a similar effort with telecom operators in Europe, according to a Business Insider report.
Apple’s MVNO interest dates back at least to 2006 when the vendor initially filed for a related patent. As recently as 2011, Apple filed to extend the patent, TechCrunch reported. The patent would set up Apple as an MVNO but rather than leasing mobile network capacity from one carrier, Apple intends to contract with a number of telecoms through its own Home Location Register, a database of SIM cards of customers.
Earlier this year, Google (GOOG) kicked off its own MVNO called Project Fi built on Sprint’s (S) and T-Mobile’s (TMUS) networks with a market twist by adopting a consumption models that allows users to pay only for data used each month.
In Apple’s MVNO model, users would pay the iPhone maker directly for texts, calls and data use. Owing to Apple’s own SIM card, which currently is available only for the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 but could be extended to the vendor’s smartphones at some point, users would be able to switch between carriers to get the best service in a framework similar to Google’s Fi platform.
In mid-July, word surfaced that Apple and Samsung are among a group of smartphone makers poised to replace the standard SIM cards in their mobile devices with embedded SIM technology (E-SIM). The device makes are said to be engaged in advanced talks with the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA), a mobile standards organization dating to 1995 used by T-Mobile (TMUS), AT&T (T) and other carriers, to implement E-SIM technology across device makers.
Network carriers AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Whampoa, Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone are expected to support the GSMA deal.
According to the Business Insider report, Apple’s exploration on an MVNO service is no indication the vendor intends to proceed beyond a test phase and, were the vendor to advance the project, it might be as long as five years before it was implemented.
Apple previously has approached telecom carriers about an MVNO deal in the past, with the expectation that a virtual Apple network will come to fruition at some point.
Separately, Apple employees are said to be testing a new Siri-based voicemail service that not only answers telephone calls but also transcribes messages, similar in concept to the premium YouMail service.
Business Insider reported that the new service, which will use the Apple iCloud to send raw voicemails to Apple servers where Siri will transcribe them into text and make them available on the iPhone, will be available in 2016, presumably with the release of iOS 10.