Mobile virtual network operator
A mobile virtual network operator, virtual network operator or other operator with a mobile license is a provider of wireless communications services that does not have the wireless network infrastructure over which it provides services to its customers. An MVNO enters into a commercial agreement with a mobile network operator to obtain mass access to network services at wholesale rates, and then establishes retail prices independently. An MVNO can use its own customer service, billing support systems, marketing and sales personnel, or it could employ the services of a mobile virtual network enabler.
MVNOs are distinguished by their commitment to own and manage the operational components of the MVNO business model, which consists of:
Access to basic network infrastructure, such as base stations, transceivers, source location registers and switching centers.
Package services, pricing and billing systems, including value-added services, such as voicemail and missed call notifications.
Aspects oriented to the consumer such as sales, marketing and customer relationship management activities, such as customer service and dispute resolution.
Because MVNOs are defined effectively by their lack of spectrum licenses, an MVNO will necessarily have to have agreements in place to access the network of at least one MNO. The type of MVNO is determined by how “thick” or “thin” a technological layer is that an MVNO adds over its access to its MNO operator’s network.
It is sometimes referred to as an “MVNO Skinny”, since the reseller relies almost entirely on the MNO facilities. They do not have any network element, but they can own and operate their own customer service, marketing and sales operations.
It is sometimes called “light MVNO”. The service provider operates its own customer support, marketing, sales and distribution operations, and has the ability to set its rates independently of the retail prices established by the MNO.
Improved service provider
It is sometimes referred to as a “thick MVNO”. The MVNO manages more complete technical implementations with its own infrastructure that allows the MVNO more control over its offers. These MVNOs have a greater focus on branding, customer ownership and differentiation through additional services such as data and SIM applications.
These MVNOs have a network implementation that operates essentially the same technology as a mobile network operator. Full MVNOs just lack their own radio networks.