Apple is in talks to launch its own virtual network service in the US and Europe

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Apple is in talks to launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) service in the US and Europe, Business Insider has learned.

Sources close to Apple say that the company is privately trialling an MVNO service in the US, but is also currently in talks with telecoms companies in Europe about bringing the service there too.

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

Here's how an Apple MVNO will work: Instead of paying your carrier every month, you'll pay Apple directly for data, calls, and texts. Apple then provides you with everything you used to get from your carrier, but the Apple SIM switches between carriers to get the best service. The telecom companies auction capacity to Apple so that it can run the service.

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Apple is in talks to launch its own virtual network service in the US and Europe
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 9: Apple CEO Tim Cook gestures on stage during an Apple special event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 9, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Apple Inc. announced the new MacBook as well as more details on the much anticipated Apple Watch, the tech giant's entry into the rapidly growing wearable technology segment as well (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
Apple interim CEO and Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook smiles before the start of the the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Monday, June 8, 2009. Cook is the interim CEO while Steve Jobs is out on leave. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
In this July 16, 2010 photo shows Apple's Tim Cook, left, and Steve Jobs, right, during a meeting at Apple in Cupertino, Calif. Cook takes over as CEO for Apple after Jobs resigned. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Apple CEO Tim Cook during announcement at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 9: Apple CEO Tim Cook stands in front of an MacBook on display after an Apple special event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 9, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Apple Inc. announced the new MacBook as well as more details on the much anticipated Apple Watch, the tech giant's entry into the rapidly growing wearable technology segment as well (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
Apple CEO Tim Cook smiles before speaking to graduates during George Washington University's commencement exercises on the National Mall, Sunday, May 17, 2015 in Washington. The university awarded Cook with an honorary doctorate of public service. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 9: Apple CEO Tim Cook waves from stage after an Apple special event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 9, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Apple Inc. announced the new MacBook as well as more details on the much anticipated Apple Watch, the tech giant's entry into the rapidly growing wearable technology segment as well (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
Apple CEO Tim Cook responds to a question during a news conference at IBM Watson headquarters, in New York, Thursday, April 30, 2015. Apple, IBM and Japanese insurance and bank holding company Japan Post have formed a partnership to improve the lives of elderly people in the country. The program will provide iPads with apps designed to help seniors manage day-to-day lives and keep in touch with family members. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Apple chief executive and Alabama native Tim Cook, right, and Catherine Randall pose with a plaque during an Alabama Academy of Honor ceremony at the state Capitol Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, in Montgomery, Ala. Cook and seven others, including Alabama football head coach Nick Saban, were inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new Apple iPad Air 2 during an event at Apple headquarters on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014 in Cupertino, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., smiles as he visits the Apple Store during the launch and sale of the new iPhone 6 on Friday, Sept 19, 2014 Palo Alto, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc takes a photograph with Apple employees at the Apple Store during the launch and sale of the new iPhone 6 on Friday, Sept 19, 2014 Palo Alto, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Apple CEO Tim Cook discusses the new Apple Watch and iPhone 6 on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Apple's CEO Tim Cook gestures during a promotional event that marks the opening day of sales of China Mobile's 4G iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c at a shop of the world's largest mobile phone operator in Beijing, China, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an event to announce new products in San Jose, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
FILE- In this Wednesday, March 7, 2012, file photo, Apple CEO Tim Cook announces a new iPad during an Apple announcement in San Francisco. Apple CEO Tim Cook is expected to show off new iPhone software, updated Mac computers and provide more details on future releases of Mac software when he kicks off the company's annual conference for software developers on Monday, June 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
FILE - In a Wednesday, March 7, 2012 file photo, Apple CEO Tim Cook announces a new iPad during an Apple announcement in San Francisco. On Tuesday, April 10, 2012, Apple, already the world's most valuable company, hit the $600 billion level for the first time. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., right, waves to customers while leaving the sales launch for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at the Apple Inc. store in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. Apple Inc.'s stores attracted long lines of shoppers for the debut of the latest iPhones, indicating healthy demand for the bigger-screen smartphones. The larger iPhone 6 Plus is already selling out at some stores across the U.S. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., left, and the band U2 gesture during a product announcement at Flint Center in Cupertino, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. Apple Inc. unveiled redesigned iPhones with bigger screens, overhauling its top-selling product in an event that gives the clearest sign yet of the company's product direction under Cook. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CUPERTINO, CA - OCTOBER 16: Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple special event on October 16, 2014 in Cupertino, California. Apple unveiled the new iPad Air 2 tablet, iPad Mini 3 and a Retina iMac. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 02: Apple CEO Tim Cook walks off stage after speaking during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at the Moscone West center on June 2, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Tim Cook kicked off the annual WWDC which is typically a showcase for upcoming updates to Apple hardware and software. The conference runs through June 6. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 17: (CHINA OUT) Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc., visits a China Mobile shop to celebrate the launch of iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C on China Mobile's fourth generation (4G) network on January 17, 2014 in Beijing, China. Apple Inc. and China Mobile Limited, the world's largest carrier with over 760 million subscribers, signed a deal on December 23, 2013 after six years of negotiations. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., displays the iPad Air for a photograph during a press event at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. Apple Inc. introduced new iPads in time for holiday shoppers, as it battles to stay ahead of rivals in the increasingly crowded market for tablet computers. Photographer: Noah Berger/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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If Apple is testing the service then there's no guarantee that it will launch, and if it does, it's not going to roll out anytime soon. Telecoms sources say that Apple is 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, and it's an "open secret" amongst carriers that a virtual Apple network is on the way.

Earlier today Business Insider reported that Apple is currently testing a service called iCloud Voicemail which 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 won't have direct relationships with carriers. Once Apple launches iCloud Voicemail, you won't have that problem, and will be free to sign up to Apple's MVNO.

There have been rumors 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.

Apple MVNO patent

Apple has already signaled 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 only available 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 very own MVNO. Project Fi is only available 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, however. Gigaom pointed out back in 2012 that both Disney and ESPN both tried to launch their own MVNO services, but later had to shut them down.

We reached out to Apple for comment on this story and will update if we hear back.

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