Did Steve Jobs want Apple to launch its own wireless network?

Did Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, at one time want to launch the iPhone with its own wireless network? That's the claim from John Stanton, one of the most well known executives in the wireless phone industry. Computerworld.com reports that according to Stanton, Jobs talked to him about creating a wireless network that would have used the unlicensed spectrum for WiFi signals. If true, it means that Jobs originally planned to launch the iPhone completely on its own, without the need for any third party wireless carrier.

Stanton said, "He and I spent a lot of time talking about whether synthetically you could create a carrier using WiFi spectrum. That was part of his vision." Apparently Jobs' vision didn't work out as the first iPhone launched here in the US with AT&T (previously Cingular) as its exclusive wireless carrier. In 2011 Verizon and Sprint partnered with Apple to sell the iPhone.

Even though Jobs' ultimate vision of an Apple-run wireless network didn't come to fruition, Stanton maintains that Apple and Jobs still had a huge effect on the wireless phone industry. He said, "If I were a carrier, I'd be concerned about the dramatic shift in power that occurred."

You have to wonder if Jobs' idea for an Apple-run wireless network might still happen one day. With Jobs' passing, perhaps the new leadership at Apple might even consider buying their own wireless carrier at some point.

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21 Comments

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SSG Lee said,
wow..the creative vision..still cant believe he's dead.

I'm sure lots of people have had the same idea, me being one of them.

As a competition hating control freak I'm sure this is what he wanted. Launch a new phone with few new features and while the drones who do little more than play on face book come in for an "update" sign them up for a higher priced plan which they don't need.

trip21 said,
As a competition hating control freak I'm sure this is what he wanted. Launch a new phone with few new features and while the drones who do little more than play on face book come in for an "update" sign them up for a higher priced plan which they don't need.

Don't sign up then. Where's the problem?

If anything, bursting out with a brand new network starting from zero, you actually need to build up some trust, good prices, etc... Even if your name is Apple and a few Apple fans will sign up with you, your biggest bet is on the other users still:
Android, WP7, BB and feature phone users.

You need to convince more than just a fraction of your costumers in order to actually start having them.
iPhones alone don't fill a network, especially not that needs to cash in well in order to be profitable after a HUGE investment.

Troll more effectively, this was too easy.

GS:mac

The carriers have way too much power over people's devices. The iPhone is indeed an exception, although apple has caved in to the carriers in some details.

Julius Caro said,
The carriers have way too much power over people's devices. The iPhone is indeed an exception, although apple has caved in to the carriers in some details.

They have in the US. Not in Europe.

Julius Caro said,
The carriers have way too much power over people's devices. The iPhone is indeed an exception, although apple has caved in to the carriers in some details.

I don't Apple ever caved really. They have made carriers gave. In a sense, that's why Google's Android is more attractive to carriers over closed off systems. The carriers can put bloat on the Android phones that they could do on iOS and WP7.

And you think that's enough money to compete with the big boys ? I think Tmobile USA was worth arround $40 billion....thats just the USA, don't forget its a global company.

Global telecommunications costs vast sums of money .....even to fanboys ;o)

I'm sure Jobs daydreamed about a lot of different things that just weren't physically possible or not possible for Apple to do....

Shadrack said,
I'm sure Jobs daydreamed about a lot of different things that just weren't physically possible or not possible for Apple to do....

why not? apple has 86 billions+ cash to spend anything they want. they sure can make their own wireless service.

perochan said,

why not? apple has 86 billions+ cash to spend anything they want. they sure can make their own wireless service.

Well you have a point there.

perochan said,

why not? apple has 86 billions+ cash to spend anything they want. they sure can make their own wireless service.

They do NOW. They did not have that kind of Cash at the time. And you need more than cash, you need all the support services ect. That would have been a massive undertaking, and it would have been a subpar experience.

Shadrack said,
I'm sure Jobs daydreamed about a lot of different things that just weren't physically possible or not possible for Apple to do....

Although then they may have not been physically able to, now they are, I do agree, but if their network would be exclusive to Apple devices, I doubt that it would be profitable. It would be today, but like any phone manufacturer (in my opinion), its all a trend. The Motorola RAZR, Blackberry, something else will someday take #1 spot and knock apple out, I'm not suggesting what it could be, but every phone manufacturer that had #1 sank to the bottom eventually.

dtboos said,

They do NOW. They did not have that kind of Cash at the time. And you need more than cash, you need all the support services ect. That would have been a massive undertaking, and it would have been a subpar experience.

To realistically aquire a wireless network Apple would need to purchase 51% of all the shares of a wireless provider. A typical acquisition is is a split between cash and stock (usually more stock than cash). The day the iPhone was released in 2007 Apple had ~35 billion in the bank.

Consider the market cap of various US wireless providers. Verizon was worth ~80 billion, AT&T was worth around 100 billion. Those were the two largest providers.

However the US has a number of national carriers that would have been available for Apple to purchase a controlling interest, and buying up a smaller provider would have eased the transition to an iphone-only network. Telling 120 million Verizon customers to sod-off is a lot harder than getting rid of say 30 million t-mobile customers.

With that in mind you could consider a number of smaller companies ripe for outright purchase. T-mobile is selling today for ~39b - Apple could have purchased it outright in 2007 for cash (28b). Sprint had a 50b market cap: Apple could, had they wanted to paid cash-outright for 51% and still had billions in the bank.

So buying a nation-wide cellular network and putting it completely under Apple control wasn't out of the question. A much more realistic scenario (for an Apple controlled network) would be rebranded service and roaming agreement setup sort of like what you see with internet resellers. There could be an "Apple Wireless" that you pay your bill to but all the traffic goes over AT&T/Verzion/etc with various peering and reselling agreements put in place.

The "build a network using wifi" seems like a cool idea but ultimately unworkable. Ever try using wifi at a trade show or out in a rural area? It just wouldn't work. Things like imessage and face time seem more like the "apple wireless over other carriers" scenario. When you do iMessage over your iphone you completely side-step the whole carrier texting thing - they're just a dumb pipe for apple traffic to travel over.