MVNO: Should Apple become its own cellular carrier?

“I can think of a few reasons that Apple would be tempted to launch its own mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), but the overriding one is philosophical,” Dan Moren writes for Macworld. “Apple’s a company that notoriously likes to control everything related to its business. In its earliest days, that meant creating both hardware and software to form an integrated whole, but in recent years, that’s increasingly meant the whole shebang. A to Z. Soup to nuts.”

“Controlling the network would open up a lot of possibilities for Apple. They’ve been down this road before with technologies like iMessage. Sure, the iPhone could receive and send text and multimedia messages before iMessage’s launch, but by bringing the feature under its own control, Apple could develop features not supported by SMS: delivery and read receipts, audio messages, and so on,” Moren writes. “An Apple network could, for example, rely entirely on data, routing voice calls over FaceTime Audio by default. This is the kind of thing that raises the ire of those who believe everything in technology should be an interoperable open standard, but it’s also the experience that Apple’s customers seek out.”

Much more, pro and con, in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Nope. It’d be, as Steve Jobs might say, “a bag of hurt.” A can of worms. Too much downside for not enough upside.


  1. I agree with the MDN take.
    Imagine the numerous investigations to Apple for being characterized as a monopoly? Even if it wasn’t operating like one, the perceived threat such an activity would have to existing carriers would invite ‘the bag of hurt’.

    1. Agreed. While I believe Apple could make a cellular service which would actually emphasize “service”, DOJ would be all over them for having done it better and having more satisfied customers.

    2. I also agree. Where’s the upside for Apple? It still has to deal with other carriers, both in the U.S. and abroad. It has to maintain and improve whatever network it buys, or it is dependent on the carrier whose network Apple is leasing to keep it updated and functional. Finally, any drops in service, outages, poor reception, etc. would be Apple’s fault (in the eyes of the customer), not AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc. When was the last time you heard anyone praise their mobile carrier?

      All that, and it’s very unlikely that Apple could generate anything near it’s 37%-40% profit margin. So why bother?

  2. Too much maintenance involved and it’d be one more thing for people to complain about when the network is down. And it WILL be down from time to time.

  3. Surprised about MDN Take.

    What’s not to like about…..
    No more sim cards,
    No $60 monthly plan (sure, there probably would be some cost, but not as much as $60pm)
    No locked vs unlocked. such a thing would have no meaning anymore.
    No more by the minute or by the second shit
    No more subsidized or unsubsidized crap
    so many things would change for the better.

    I say get those satellite’s up there and go for it!

    1. That’s not what MVNO means.

      MVNO has to do with piggybacking off other carriers, IE: Verizon/Sprint/T-Mobile/AT&T as a virtual service provider.

      This is what Google is doing. Other like MVNOs are Straight Talk, Platinum Telephone, USA Mobile, TracFone…. Many countless more. They bulk buy services from actual carriers, and resell, at very small margins to the customer.

      Some MVNO’s specialize on a specific carrier, while others offer multiple carriers, but they still have to support the same SIMs/hardware, locked and unlocked phones as everyone else. Including multiple differing contracts, pushing customers towards a particular carrier technology, because it’s cheaper for them etc.

      Again, it’s a hard job, kludgy and not worth the effort. Nothing really to gain for all the hard work, for Apple. Google on the other hand, can use the concept to have a “man in the middle,” between you and the world, to collect data, to resell and advertise. There’s a lot more to gain.

      1. The key word is “Virtual”. The carrier still owns and operates the towers and network. If the network is shaky under the carriers name, putting “Apple ” on it won’t make any better. And, with the Apple name on it, who gets the black eye?

        The only solution would be for Apple to buy a carrier outright, maybe T-Mobile, and set the service bar so high and the cost bar so low that the other carriers are forced to compete. The carriers know what life is like without an iPhone, so they wouldn’t dare exclude them from their offerings. But operating a cellular telephone company is probably a BoH in its own right.

        1. And that would mean Apple would have to spend the money to buy the carrier, basically make very little if any profit because it was trying to drive other carriers down (definitely NOT in Apple’s DNA to take little profit/loss leaders), and then Apple would have to be constantly investing in the network with upgrades, maintenance/repairs, marketing, etc.

          Not gonna happen.

          1. Being a carrier is a Bag of Hurt. And Apple tends to focus on doing things in a way they make a good amount of money. But Apple could raise the service bar quite a bit by just doing the right thing, which is in Apples DNA.

            Still probably never going to happen, just better than being a MVNO.

      2. Reading up on Google’s take on MVNO, their system will allow your device to seamlessly auto-switch between 2 carrier’s (Sprint & T-Mobile?) and WiFi for your voice/text/data depending on which of the 3 has the best signal at the time for your location. A step beyond what Republic Wireless and other MVNOs are doing presently. Only a single device is compatible now but expected to add more as time passes.

  4. I’d rather Apple buy Sprint or T-Mobile instead of just re-selling access to somebody else’s towers like Google is doing. If Apple controlled the towers they could control the whole experience. They could offer data for a fair price instead of the “rape price” we currently have to live with…where 1 single HD movie download over LTE costs you $70.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.