Apple could one day offer its own phone service to go along with its phones. According to Business Insider, Apple is testing an MVNO service — a phone service that would be run by Apple but would operate on wireless networks leased from established carriers, like AT&T and Sprint. There's been some indication in the past that Apple was interested in launching an MVNO service, but Business Insider now reports that Apple has actually begun trialling such a service in the US. It's reportedly working on deals to begin tests in Europe, too. The report indicates that Apple's service may piggyback on multiple carriers and switch customers between them for better service.
If it ever launches, it apparently won't be soon
An Apple phone service apparently won't launch anytime soon. Even if Apple is currently testing the service and decides to move ahead with it, Business Insider reports that a full launch is likely five or more years out. The report cites telecom sources that seem to think the launch is inevitable, in which case there should be a lot more news on Apple's plans over the next few years. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In launching an MVNO, Apple would be following Google's lead. Google recently announced Project Fi, an MVNO phone service that currently serves Nexus 6 owners. That limitation is a way for Google to keep its current pool of users small. Presumably, if Google is able to scale the service, it'll eventually open up to other Android phones. Serving as an MVNO might be particularly helpful to Google, as it would allow it to control more of the Android experience without having to worry about carriers adding extra software or delaying updates. Apple wouldn't have such huge gains, but it might give it more control over the iPhone experience. Plus, it might be another way for Apple to expand its enormous phone revenues. That's one good reason to believe it'd be interested in becoming an MVNO.