Update: Apple has been quick to deny rumors that the company would be looking to launch its own mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) service in the United States and Europe. "We have not discussed nor do we have any plans to launch an MVNO," said an Apple spokeswoman in a statement on Tuesday.

Google apparently isn't the only major US-based tech company interested in offering wireless service directly to smartphone owners. Sources familiar with the matter claim Apple is taking the necessary steps to become a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) both in the states and abroad.

As an MVNO, Apple would lease capacity from existing wireless providers, rebrand the service as their own and sell it directly to consumers.

Google launched its own MVNO service earlier this year, Project Fi, which relies on both T-Mobile and Sprint for connectivity. The search giant is offering some compelling features - it only charges you for data you use, for example - but its invite-only nature and the fact that it only works with the Nexus 6 means it's limited to a small subset of consumers as of now.

What Google does have going for it, however, is that its service is already here.

Experts in the telecom industry tell Business Insider that Apple's MVNO may not arrive for another five years or so. Apple has reportedly been in talks with telecoms for years and that carriers deem the MVNO as an "open secret." In fact, the company first filed a patent for an MVNO before the original iPhone arrived in 2007.

Given the launch of the Apple SIM late last year, the pending iCloud Voicemail feature and now the latest MVNO rumors, it's clear that Apple is getting its ducks in a row to make a serious push as a wireless provider.

Image courtesy Stephen Lam, Reuters