While speaking at the international Informa MVNO Industry Summit in Barcelona, Whitey Bluestein (an analyst who has helped mange deals for companies like AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Intel and Microsoft) revealed that he believes Apple will start offering wireless plans to their iPhone and iPad customers in the near future.
With over 250 million credit cards on file, Bluestein said that Apple should have virtually no problem when it comes to billing for any future wireless service(s) the company may rollout in the coming years. The biggest issue Apple would face in their goal to “replace carriers” would be compensating for the money lost from the licensing contracts with carriers that allow them to sell iPhones (under commitment) at a discounted price:
What has been holding Apple back from becoming a wireless provider already, according to Bluestein, are the enormous handset subsidies paid by mobile operators (AT&T, VZW and Sprint in the US), which amount to about $381 for each iPhone sold today,” Bluestein noted. ”That has been a short-term stumbling block for Apple, but the company has its well-known cash reserves and could seize the initiative at any point.
However, with close to $100 billion in cash reserves, Apple could financially support a decision such as this and would probably benefit from the revenue generated by customer subscriptions in the long run.
Here’s a list of the analyst’s main points:
- Apple will in the near future begin providing cellular service, data, voice and roaming, directly to its customers.
- Apple will begin by offering mobile data plans bundled with iPads (vs. current practice of selling GSM iPads with AT&T data and CDMA iPads with Verizon data plans).
- Apple will then offer iPhone customers activation, data and international roaming plans through the iTunes Store.
- Apple will provide voice, data and messaging plans directly to its iPhone customers, on anala carte basis as an alternative to their current mobile operator and then as wireless service provider directly to customers.
- Google, while behind Apple in technology, distribution and back-office capabilities, will nevertheless follow in lock-step behind Apple and provide wireless data services directly to its Google Tablet customers.
Bluestein also brought to light a pending patent Apple filed in 2006 which, if granted, will allow the company to establish a network architecture like no other that will enable them to break into the mobile service provider industry.
While Bluestein and other analysts have made claims of Apple establishing their own wireless service in the past, it could take years to accomplish such a feat and unless the transition is currently underway, it could be some time before Apple can fully sever the bonds from wireless carriers. Stay tuned for more news related to Apple and their future endeavors.