Should Apple become a wireless ISP?

“There are four reasons that Apple may eventually launch a Wireless ISP subsidiary,” Phil Leigh writes for Inside Digital Media.

“First, the market for Apple’s portable hardware cannot achieve full potential without significant improvement in Wireless Internet access,” Leigh writes. “The exceptional iPhone and iPad successes are forever changing user expectations about network connectivity.”

“Second, regulatory roadblocks commonly employed by FCC-licensed incumbents cannot prevent Apple from entering the market because Wireless ISPs typically utilize unlicensed frequencies,” Leigh writes. “Third, Apple can adequately finance mesh Wi-Fi networks capable of transforming wireless Internet connectivity — within population centers — into a semblance of an ever-present universal access field.”

Leigh writes, “Fourth, historical examples suggest technological leaders might naturally evolve in such a manner.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Opportun” for the heads up.]

45 Comments

    1. Why not?
      Under the current stupidity, if you live outside the USA and visit the USA with your iPad, you AT&T will not sell you a SIM card to use while you visit. The whole point of an iPad us to have a mobile flexible device that works anywhere.

  1. Absolutely. Apple’s future is in cloud computing for delivering content. With wired and wireless ISPs already capping data usage there is NO WAY Apple is going to let its future be dependent on third parties. They have always provided an end to end user experience and becoming a wireless ISP is the natural end to their current strategy.

    1. Very interesting topic here… It WOULD be nice to have a new ISP that is pro-consumer. If Apple had the capability to tackle this dilemma, it would be great… can’t go any further with this sort of speculation, lol!

      Who really knows? No fortune teller crystal ball here.

    2. I think the idea behind the company Clear or Clearwire is sound but it’s takes money and big thinking. Maybe something can be done to get them away from their current partner and show them the Apple way.

      1. ClearWire/Clear sucks. They have oversold their capacity.

        Their original intent was to be an ISP for old-school mobile devices. To get subscribers, they sold it as a home service, which is crushing them. Add high traffic Apple devices (think what they did to ATT) and they will completely and utterly fail.

        Not to mention that the company is broke and has filed paperwork with the SEC that they might be out of business by the end of this year.

      2. Sprint holds a majority position in Clear (Clearwire). Sprint can be bought for $15B. That would give Apple instant infrastructure and licensed frequencies to reach about 60% of the people on earth with WiMax service. WiMax is 30% faster than LTE and uses bandwidth more efficiently. It has a maximum range of 30 miles versus WiFi’s hundreds of feet.

        Apple will not let the current gatekeepers throttle its business. They will disrupt the cable/satellite/phone ISPs just as they have everyone else who got in their way.

    1. Not if they only allowed Apple devices on the network. The mesh network is entirely installed on vendor premises, the user devices just connect. For a fee, of course. WiFi services can completely obliterate cell phones. Apple showed us how with FaceTime. Customer service will be about as hard as iTMS or the App Store.

      Then we will see the iPhone nano, a mobile hot spot with in-built cellular capability and Apple acting as an MVNO. Bang. ATT, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint have only one customer with a very strong bargaining position and a big pile of chips. This capability will be for those areas where population density won’t support a full-up mesh.

      Well, I can dream, can’t I?

      1. Uh, no. This sounds like a great idea: Just set up the Wi-Fi centers and BOOM! instant network.

        Sorry, there are WAY too many hurdles to overcome. Leased space/negotiations. Maintenance/installations. Having enough centers to provide service w/o dropped connections, handoffs to other centers as you’re moving, etc.

        If becoming a wireless ISP were so simple and easy, AT&T would have done it long ago. After all, it has a large network of Wi-Fi hotspots. And yet nothing.

        Finally, there will be no iPhone nano. It just makes no sense whatsoever because you lose all the benefits of a touchscreen when you shrink it down much smaller than the current iPhone. The current iPod nano’s screen is nice, but very limited use.

        1. I disagree.
          There is every reason why an iPhone Nano could work. It’s less about the hardware and more about the apps. A 2-inch screen, limited memory and smaller feature set would do it. That kind of spec could define a device that could win over many feature phone users. Once in the ecosystem mill, they would want to upgrade. Good for customers. Good for Apple futures. The iPad demonstrates that Apple can do great tech at an astonishing price point. Or have we forgotten that the world and his uncle fully expected iPad 1 to launch at around $1,000 last year?

  2. I’ve been saying that they will be doing this since the original iPhone came out. It was probably delayed 1-2 years just to get a carrier to agree to Their terms (AT&T only till 2011?). Though not nationwide, a purchase of clearwire combined with a voip solution (think FaceTime or some voice only variant such as skype) would be a iTunes type model (no significant revenue stream but pushing sales of devices) ala mobile me plan at $299/yr??? That could wipe out in one fell swoop all cell carriers (grow the infrastructure as money comes in), isp’s (not just your mobile devices), and pc competitors as you would not be eligible for oTA WLAN without osx.

    It will happen, the 4g just isn’t built out enough for the outright purchase by apple.

  3. I vaguely recall Cringely predicted this about 5 years ago. Something along the lines of some retailer with lots of storefronts, but a declining business using them to create a wireless network, as wireless tech improves range. I think the store he was talking about was Blockbuster. It was starting to die, and needed a new business model.

  4. Think about the requirement to do this in every country Apple wants to sell products in, and it looks more and more like a snake pit.

    Apple would rather create the demand for cheap bandwidth and count on the marketplace to provide it. It will work in the long run but there will be bumps in the road

  5. Norm Dwyer raises an interesting point. If Apple were to seriously entertain this, I think it would have nothing to do with cellular networks as we know them today, however. 3G and even 4G are the equivalent of an early 1950 black and white TV signal. I doubt that when the 3G specs were envisioned by the telco industry that they had a clue of the bandwidth demands brought about by the iPhone.

    With the FCC spectrum auctions taking a swath of the old analog TV bandwidth space, I understand that such frequencies would allow for a significant advance in making wireless Internet dramatically faster, more reliable and more pervasive. Concrete walls would no longer be an impediment to a cellular signal, and a future replacement to what we consider WiFi today would be entirely different.

    My point is that I don’t think that Apple wants to get into the cellular business as we know it today. If the company were to go in this strategic direction, it would be like Apple to change the game entirely, and use a real next generation technology and bandwidth.

    I remember as a kid having to adjust the rabbit ears on an old black and white TV for my parents as they screamed at me so they could watch Ed Sullivan and some idiot spinning plates atop tall sticks. Later, I was sent to the roof of our house to do the same thing with our old TV antenna. That was so yesterday. It’s the equivalent of where we are right now with 3G and 4G cellular networks.

    Absurd? You bet. And I have a hunch that a few to several years from now, that this will start to change radically. Only then would Apple consider getting serious along these lines if it makes business sense.

    1. Brian elaborated on my original point nicely. I don’t see Apple recreating or entering snakepit that is cellular networks. It will be a next gen technology that will make cellular networks pointless. This might sound pie in the sky, but this is what Apple does and has done, time and time again.

  6. I wonder if satellite would be a part of the solution, along with Apple stores and other transmission sites. This could be some of the reason that Apple has been accumulating cash.
    Perhaps centered around the NC site.
    Talk about another disrupted industry.
    That would blow everything out of the water.

    I think Apple could pull it off.

    1. A couple of years ago, it occurred to me that if Apple would only buy/make/launch a low-orbiting satellite(s) with their stockpile of cash, they could not only be a wireless ISP, but their own telecom company. I’m with on this Applesmack, it would be a worldwide gamechanger and stick it to AT&T and others!

  7. A virtual ISP- wired & wireless.
    Negotiate access via Comcast, TWC, Cox, SuddenLink, Cablevision, AT&T, Verizon, & Sprint-Nextel.
    Sell a package based upon data cap/month rate.
    It’s doable & Apple has the $ & clout to make it happen.

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