The latest Shawn Today featured Ben Brooks. The episode felt like a B&B podcast after the fact, and was generally quite an interesting discussion. Those guys should team up more often.
About halfway the discussion, they talk about how Apple should be blanking cities with Wi-Fi to enable 'costless' iMessage and FaceTime audio over Wi-Fi instead of costing users minutes, messages and Cellular Data. They talk about possible partnerships with Starbucks and other retailers,... You should go listen to it, it's good.
The topic made me think of another option. A bit exotic maybe, but possible of Apple really wants it.
What if Apple enabled all their Airports to optionally broadcast an Apple Wi-Fi network open to every iOS device across the globe. A guest channel next to each user's main network. It wouldn't broadcast internet at it's fullest, but would only accept iCloud, iMessage, FaceTime connections.
I'm not really sure how many AirPorts Apple sells, and my view on it is very biased since I work at an Apple reseller so I only see AirPorts and Aerohives being sold, but even if one in ten iOS owners has an Airport, this is quite a big group of users.
So imagine cities where every Apple devices automatically roams from AirPort to AirPort, with "free" Wi-Fi for everyone. But only for the iCloud services, since we don't want to risk people illegally downloading data, or moving massive amounts of data across other people's network. Authentication could be certificate based, created based on a users AppleID and distributed via the APNS-network used for Push notifications and MDM.
Users would be able to call other users for free over FaceTime, send iMessages and so on, free of charge. In a perfect scenario iTunes Match would stream over this network too, although bandwidth and data usage needs to be taken in account here.
Who's going to pay for the data you may wonder? Nobody, and everyone. Because we're basically using another person's network we increase his data usage. But the reverse is also through. Someone else uses my home's bandwidth too. I think it would balance out. AirPorts are generally only bought by Apple users. So if each user can use every other user's bandwidth, everybody profits and nobody looses. And if Apple really wants to play fair, they could add a picker to AirPort Utility's interface which allows the owner to set a traffic limit. E.g. 50GB/month.
My provider, Telenet, has a similar system called Telenet HomeSpot. Every Telenet user's network sends out a HotSpot, authenticated with the same login we use for their customer services. In Antwerp, where I live, there's basically a Telenet network covering the entire town now. It works, great I might say, but you still need to authenticate which makes using the network a bit cumbersome. iOS7's HotSpot 2 might solve this issue, but an integrated Apple solution would be just as great, or better.