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macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
54,693
16,880


A newly published patent application reveals an abandoned possibility for the Apple iPhone. The patent details the methods for Apple to act as a "mobile virtual network operator" (MVNO).
When iPhone first connects to wireless network, it sends iTunes MVNO server it's ID and location, and get's back the information with the available networks, services and rates in the area.
Network selection can be done manually or simply based on the best price. All billing would have been consolidated under iTunes. This possibility was discussed here on MacRumors back in 2005.

An earlier Wired article on the iPhone's origins had previously revealed that Apple was prepared to try to launch the iPhone themselves, if negotiations with Cingular (AT&T) fell through:
Apple was also prepared to buy wireless minutes wholesale and become a de facto carrier itself.
As readers know, negotiations were successful, and Apple launched the iPhone on AT&T exclusively. It's still interesting to see the other options Apple had explored in launching their own iPhone.

Article Link
 

ruckus

macrumors regular
Oct 19, 2005
180
0
that is pretty interesting information. wonder what things would have been like if apple was its own carrier...

proly more delays on the computer updates :p
 

ariza910

macrumors regular
Oct 19, 2002
192
1
So Cal
based on the awesome $20/mnth data plan from ATT I think Apple made the right choice. I cant imagine Apple getting a better deal on minutes and data on their own not to mention we would probably miss out on Visual Voicemail.
 

ncbill

macrumors regular
Aug 18, 2002
232
4
MVNOs don't live long, at least in the post-paid world.

Both ESPN and Disney poured a ton of money into launching their own MVNOs. neither MVNO is around today.

Pre-paid MVNOs have had some success w/ voice/text (Tracfone, Virgin Mobile), but wouldn't work well with the iPhone (unlimited data)
 

Brianstorm91

macrumors 65816
Sep 30, 2007
1,365
0
Cambridge, UK
When iPhone first connects to wireless network, it sends iTunes MVNO server it's ID and location, and get's back the information with the available networks, services and rates in the area.

I'm going to be sick.
 

mrgreen4242

macrumors 601
Feb 10, 2004
4,376
7
I would have been much more likely to buy an iPhone had Apple been the carrier. I think the failure of MVNO's in general is a huge statement about the oligoboly that is the mobile phone industry.

The new 900mhz (er, is that the right frequency? Whatever all the recent C and D Block auction business was about) with it's regulated openness might give some breathing room for new players, but we'll see.
 

superleccy

macrumors 6502a
Oct 31, 2004
997
187
That there big London
They still might decide to go down the MVNO route once whatever deals they've signed with O2 / AT&T / whoever expire. And there's still the MVNO possibility in as yet iPhone-free countries.

If Apple did go MVNO, it would really shake the market up - and in a good way. But the obstacle would be the existing networks, who'd not be willing to give Apple a good wholesale deal.

more american stuff not worth mentioning in the UK!

MVNOs are very relevant to the UK. Virgin is one and there's a ton of others. Even 3 used to (and possibly still does) borrow the O2 network.

SL
 

Mudbug

Administrator emeritus
Jun 28, 2002
3,848
1
North Central Colorado
IMHO too bad they didn't go this route - the iPhone would be a much more attractive device to me (and I bet a lot of other people as well) if I wouldn't have to be tied to AT&T. Oh well... I just bought an iPod touch and have an independent cell phone on the carrier of my choice and that works for me like a charm.
 

Neerazan

macrumors member
Feb 2, 2005
86
0
London, UK
more american stuff not worth mentioning in the UK!

Not totally true! It could have applied at a global level, meaning that wherever you are in the world you are only paying the price of a local (mobile) call to call within that country. So an iPhone owner in the UK can go over to the States and pay AT&T or Verizon rates for calls to US numbers as an American iPhone user would normally, and vice-versa.

No use to me, but would have pleased cheapskate pond hoppers :)
 

Sheradon

macrumors newbie
Sep 21, 2006
26
0
What a coincidence i was talking to a Rogers operator, fixing my blackberry, and i was asking when he might think that they will be getting the IPhone.

He said two interesting things, 1st that they were supposed to get it for chrismass but name rights were not settled by then and that now Apple was considering starting their own phone service (subcontracting to rogers).

Interesting that this news comes in just after my discussion.

More to come I guess as seems that the rights for Canada have been settled.

Can't wait anymore.....
 

TimmyDee

macrumors member
Feb 20, 2007
72
5
IMHO too bad they didn't go this route - the iPhone would be a much more attractive device to me (and I bet a lot of other people as well) if I wouldn't have to be tied to AT&T. Oh well... I just bought an iPod touch and have an independent cell phone on the carrier of my choice and that works for me like a charm.

Agreed. Once reason I unlocked my iPhone was because I don't like many of the choices/policies/attitudes AT&T has as a company. T-Mobile may not be a saint, but at least they're not powerful enough (yet) to make some of the ill-conceived and far reaching decisions that AT&T (and SBC, Cigular, etc.) has.
 

kornyboy

macrumors 68000
Sep 27, 2004
1,529
0
Knoxville, TN (USA)
Wirelessly posted (iPhone: Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU like Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/420.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0 Mobile/4A102 Safari/419.3)

I agree with most here. I think that despite the way that a lot of people feel about AT&T, it was a way to get the phone into the hands of a bunch of people in the US with fewer headaches. It would have been difficult for Apple to start its own cell service provider even if the bought the minutes wholesale. I'm glad the deal worked out. It seems to be beneficial to all parties involved.
 

jbernie

macrumors 6502a
Nov 25, 2005
927
11
Denver, CO
I think Apple really wanted a carrier to go with so if the device was not to be a success they werent left trying to be a reseller and then it gets ugly if they found it too expensive etc and needed to move people back over to a normal carrier setup.

Also the visual vmail may or may not have been possible in the sense that the wholesale carrier would be less likely to invest the money into the technology required as it would be Apple's phone network and not the carriers, at least in the way it was promoted.
 

Unspeaked

macrumors 68020
Dec 29, 2003
2,448
1
West Coast
Apple is a US company so deal with it buddy

Apple is a US based, but very global company (thankfully).

That being said, I do agree that as this is an American site covering on a corporation that's headquartered in California, USA, a little US bias is in order.

But isn't this all a little off-topic?
 

Staska

macrumors newbie
Apr 10, 2008
1
0
MVNO is still not out of question

It's not necessarily an abandoned opportunity. It would have been very difficult for Apple to launch an MVNO right from the start. They had to go AT&T/exclusive contract route.

But once that contract runs out, Apple is free to do whatever they like. The can decide to go MVNO route then. With tens of millions of iPhone users out there Apple will have incredible leverage with all mobile operators, and can demand MVNO access to any network.

And it's not like your iPhone has to be on AT&T network. Simple firmware update when you next connect your iPhone to iTunes can set it free, or give it access to Apple's MVNO offering.

And when iPhone starts a bidding war for it's users between AT&T and T-Mobile, some interesting things might happen. And in Europe and Asia, where 3-5 GSM operators could start the bidding war, even more so.
 

skellener

macrumors 68000
Jun 23, 2003
1,768
507
So. Cal.
Interesting but irrelevant. Apple and the iPhone are locked to AT&T until 2012 here in the U.S. Keep on hacking! ;)
 

72930

Retired
May 16, 2006
9,060
4
I guess if this were the case they would have put a bit more effort into stopping unlocks.
 
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