Steve Jobs tried to replace wireless carriers

By on November 16, 2011, 6:30 PM

Seasoned wireless entrepreneur and venture capitalist John Stanton revealed that Steve Jobs had some big ideas about wireless handsets and how the world should connect through them. Stanton spoke Monday at the Law Seminars International event in Seattle.

For about three years, the late Steve Jobs had explored ways to replace wireless carriers by utilizing unlicensed wireless spectrum. Stanton and Jobs had discussed this topic at length, theorizing whether or not wireless technologies like 802.11x could supplant traditional cellular companies. "He wanted to replace carriers," said Stanton.

A wireless mesh network (WMN) which uses wireless devices as ad-hoc access points was likely on the list of possibilities discussed.

Just before the first iPhone was released, Mr. Jobs had all but given up on the idea. However, using his forward-thinking ideas as leverage in meetings, the Silicon Valley legend forced the hands of big telecommunications companies into making unprecedented concessions. 

AT&T gave Apple more latitude than any other phone manufacturer. The company had tremendous involvement with its own product within the AT&T ecosystem itself. Despite Jobs' initial resistance, the App Store was a prime example of power shifting away from AT&T. While an "app store" was by no means a new idea, it was the first time such a marketplace existed without the carrier getting a cent in return. Shortly afterward, Android followed suit and other carriers were forced to play along with this nearly profitless model.

Stanton said, "If I were a carrier, I'd be concerned about the dramatic shift in power that occurred," as he reflected on what a frustrating experience it must have been for AT&T. By maximizing Apple's power over their products and services, the wireless company diminished its own. In return though, AT&T was rewarded with the exclusive privilege of offering one of the most desirable phones ever produced.

Within urban areas where nearly everyone carries a cell phone, a mesh network of wireless phones does not sound  unthinkable. Will a time come when big wireless operators, or at least the premium services they offer, are rendered obsolete by what is effectively network device crowd-sourcing?




User Comments: 7

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RH00D RH00D said:

I think this was one of Steve's best ideas. Carriers are, well, I don't even need to get into that.

Guest said:

That day can't come soon enough...

Guest said:

Ah yes, the day when phone drains your battery in a matter of hours even though you didn't place a single call simply ebcause it was performing service for other people in your vicinity ...And when you can't get help in an emergency because the cariers (who could have provided the access in remote areas) have just went under due to losses sustained in metropolitan areas (where most phone traffic occurs). The joy !!!

fimbles fimbles said:

Dont british telecom do something similar to this? BTFON or something, Allows you to connect through other customers wireless devices i think..

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

fimbles said:

Dont british telecom do something similar to this? BTFON or something, Allows you to connect through other customers wireless devices i think..

Its not quite the same, sure its WiFi signal but you have to be a BT customer in some way (although all iPhone users get this as default) and of course iPhones can't make a call or send a text over WiFi so its not all that useful :S

Guest said:

some people have no lens for the future..... these are the people who pee on innovative ideas

Staff
Rick Rick, TechSpot Staff, said:

Ah yes, the day when phone drains your battery in a matter of hours even though you didn't place a single call simply ebcause it was performing service for other people in your vicinity
Indeed. Especially if it happened a few years ago.

It will probably be many years before we have the technology to offset this disadvantage.

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