Apple MVNO Patent Reveals Abandoned Possibility
When iPhone first connects to wireless network, it sends iTunes MVNO server it's ID and location, and get's back the information with the available networks, services and rates in the area.Network selection can be done manually or simply based on the best price. All billing would have been consolidated under iTunes. The MVNO model would free Apple from any ties to any one particular mobile phone carrier and users would buy service directly from Apple. This possibility was discussed here on MacRumors back in 2005.
An earlier Wired article on the iPhone's origins had previously revealed that Apple was prepared to try to launch the iPhone themselves, if negotiations with Cingular (AT&T) fell through:
Apple was also prepared to buy wireless minutes wholesale and become a de facto carrier itself.
As readers know, negotiations were successful, and Apple launched the iPhone on AT&T exclusively. It's still interesting to see the other options Apple had explored in launching their own iPhone.