Apple is in talks with multiple network operators in Europe and the United States to launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) for iPhone owners. The MVNO will allow Apple to take control of texts, calls and data usage, removing the direct connection between a carrier and customer.
Instead of subscribing to one carrier, Apple will automatically select the best network in the area. It will judge the speed and consistency of each operator and will switch once it finds a better network.
This should allow users to travel across Europe or the US without having to worry about carrier issues. It will also allow Apple to maintain direct control of the SIM, potentially making it non-removable.
Apple already launched the Apple SIM last year for the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3, allowing customers to swap carriers without having to take out the SIM card. It is working on an iCloud Voicemail service with Siri integration, to move voicemails onto Apple’s own network instead of the carriers. Apple has also held a patent since 2006 for an MVNO, which it renewed a few years ago.
All this evidence points to more control for Apple in the networking department. It will pay large sums of money to carriers to offer service for iPhones, but carriers will lose all connection with the customer.
This might be an issue for some carriers like O2, who offer services like Priority to customers. Without the direct connection to the subscriber, it will become hard for O2 to push these deals to its customers.
Apple is not the only company that wants more control over the network. Google launched Project Fi in the US, allowing customers to switch between T-Mobile and Sprint on the Nexus 6. We suspect Google is also be looking into a European expansion, allowing customers to travel around Europe without having to switch carrier or worry about roaming costs.
Even if Apple and Google’s intentions are good, giving the two tech giants more control over the mobile is worrisome. Both already command a lot of attention with pre-installed applications, and removing the competition in the carrier industry may come back to haunt customers.
In the US, this might not seem like a much of a worry, considering Verizon Wireless and AT&T offer expensive deals with average service, but in the UK we have a large amount of carrier diversity and prices for data are relatively cheap. The same can be said for most of Europe, where more than two carriers compete for customers on speed and price.
Apple doesn’t intend to launch the MVNO this year, with long-term goals to partner with all of the major carriers before launching. This is another project that is in Apple’s five year plan, along with the electric, self-driving car.
Source: Business Insider