Apple may launch its own mobile MVNO brand in Europe and US

4 Aug 2015

Tech giant Apple could soon be a mobile network operator. It is understood to be trialling a service in the US and is in talks with mobile operators to launch its own virtual mobile network in the US and Europe.

Update: Apple has since denied it fosters plans for an MVNO

A mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is an entity that provides its own-branded mobile phone service on the back of an existing operator’s network. For example, Tesco’s mobile service in Ireland, as well as that of Carphone Warehouse and the forthcoming UPC mobile service, are provided on the back of Three’s network in Ireland.

Under the proposed offering, customers will buy calls, texts and data through Apple rather than directly through a mobile operator and the move could prove to be a game-changer for the shape of the mobile market.

Apple’s SIM will intelligently sift between mobile networks to get the best coverage at all times but at a fixed price for the consumer. Such a move could be in keeping with how future 5G networks will work in terms of intelligent, software-defined network switching.

The future of mobile brands?

For many years mobile networks have suspiciously eyed the intentions of over-the-top players like Facebook, Whatsapp, Google and other tech brands whose services are circumventing traditional services with free calls and messaging.

If the Apple MVNO goes ahead it could signal a change in the market dynamic whereby over-the-top brands provide the consumer touchpoint while mobile operators are allowed to concentrate on network infrastructure.

While Apple is testing the service in the US and is in talks with European operators, it could be five years before such a service emerges.

According to Business Insider, it is an “open secret” among operators in Europe that Apple is planning an MVNO.

Last year Apple launched the Apple SIM for the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 that allowed customers to switch between networks for the best coverage.

In related news, Apple is testing a new voicemail service that uses Siri to answer calls and transcribe voicemail messages via Apple’s iCloud service.

The move is a logical step if Apple is indeed planning its own MVNO service, using iCloud as the lynchpin for critical voice messages.

Apple rival Google has for many years been rumoured to have been planning to launch MVNO services and is already testing its own Project Fi service for smartphone users in the US.

iPhone 6 image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years