The folks at AppleInsider have uncovered an interesting patent that could allow Apple to put the carrier in the background for iPhone users.
The patent, called "Dynamic carrier selection," describes a situation where the mobile device would select the best carrier available from a selection. Apple would buy the talk time, texts and data from carriers wholesale, and pass that on to users.
From the abstract:
Systems, methods, computer software for providing access to wireless communication services are provided. The invention, in one embodiment, can involve storing a network address on a mobile device and sending a request for network operator data from the mobile device to a mobile virtual network operator server associated with the network address. In response, network operator data is received, and, based on the received network operator data, a network operator is selected. Communications are thereafter conducted using the selected network operator. In some situations, bids are received from multiple network operators for rates at which communication services using each network operator can be obtained. Preferences among the network operators are identified using the received bids, and the preferences are used to select the network operator for the mobile device to use in conducting communications.
This idea sound familiar? It should be, since I blogged about just that earlier this week.
According to AppleInsider, this could mean cheaper plans for consumers:
Traditional MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) purchase wireless minutes in bulk from existing carriers and resell them to customers. Apple's system could set off a bidding war between providers, potentially driving prices down.
Using Apple's proposed system, a user could specify carrier preferences for different rates, locations and times that would then be dynamically selected by the iPhone.
This could put the end user in the driving seat and put an end to users being tied to a single carrier. Subsidies would become unnecessary as Apple could itself offer the handset at a cheaper rate and tie users to a contract, cutting out the middle man altogether.
This could be very disruptive to the mobile market. Very.
The patent was filed October 10, 2006 but it wasn't granted until February 8, 2011.