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Now Apple is saying it has no plans to become a mobile carrier

It was said to be in talks to launch a mobile carrier service in both the US and Europe, but it has denied the report.

APPLE HAS SAID it’s not planning on entering the mobile network business after reports suggested it was.

The company told CNBC that it has not discussed and is not planning to become a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO).

Sources close to Apple told Business Insider the company was privately trialling an MVNO in the US but was also in talks with telecoms companies in Europe about bringing the service there too.

An MVNO is a virtual carrier network that sees technology companies lease space from established carriers and sell it to customers directly.

One such example we have here would be Tesco Mobile. While it is a mobile operator, it doesn’t own any network infrastructure. Instead, it pays Three a fee to use its network. The same principle will apply to UPC and Carphone Warehouse, both of which are launching their own mobile networks later this year.

shutterstock_234118174 Huge crowds at the Apple Megastore queuing for the iPhone 6 last year. Source: Shutterstock/zkruger

It was said that Apple was looking long-term with its MVNO and could take at least five years to fully launch the service. Apple has been in talks with telecoms companies for years over its MVNO plans, those sources say, adding that it’s an “open secret” among carriers that a virtual Apple network is on the way.

Business Insider on Monday reported that Apple was testing a service called iCloud Voicemail that will automatically transcribe voicemail messages using Siri.

It makes sense that Apple wants to take control of voicemail before it launches an MVNO. Right now your voicemails are stored with your carrier.

Once Apple is taking money from customers for data and calls, customers will not have direct relationships with carriers. Once Apple launches iCloud Voicemail, you will not have that problem and will be free to sign up to Apple’s MVNO.

There have been rumours about an Apple MVNO for years. TechCrunch reports that Apple filed a patent back in 2006 for an MVNO service. It has since filed to extend that patent.

screen shot 2015-08-03 at 15.02.58 Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office

Apple already signalled its intent to become the gateway to carriers when it launched the Apple SIM in 2014. It allowed customers to switch between networks through their device using a SIM card that could connect to lots of different carriers.

Right now it’s available only for the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3, but future versions of the SIM card could be used to launch an Apple MVNO for iPhones.

Google is already testing its own MVNO. Project Fi is available only for the Nexus 6 smartphone in the US, but it is a signal that the tech company sees an MVNO as a potential area for expansion in the future.

But not every MVNO is successful. Gigaom pointed out back in 2012 that both Disney and ESPN tried to launch their own MVNO services but later had to shut them down.

(Additional reporting by Quinton O’Reilly)

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Business Insider
Business Insider is a business site with strong financial, media and tech focus.

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