What are the differences between mobile virtual operators?

The world of mobile virtual operators is complex. There are acronyms that describe each of the players, but it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the role that each plays in the telecoms world. Let’s take a look at the different players together.

Mobile network operator (MNO) :

These are the ones known to the general public, the most visible Bouygues, Free, SFR and Orange. They are the ones who buy or lease the radio spectrum from the regulator. They therefore have their own network and are responsible for it. They are responsible for any malfunctions, whether they be outages or poor quality. MNOs bill their B2C and B2B customers directly. In some cases, they may do billing for their MVNO customers

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Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) :

The latter rely on the infrastructure and all related systems of their supplier MNO. They can have several MNOs, although MNOs prefer to lock in their partners by contract. Under the wholesale system, MVNOs will benefit from specific prices in order to resell to other operators or to end customers (B2B/B2C).

They will also, in order to strengthen their brand, propose to break down their offers with a data-only package for IoT for example. They will provide a SIM card in their colours to be integrated into the connected object with only 4G connectivity. The MVNO will be responsible for billing its customers, although in some cases it may rely on its provider.

The MNO is required by law to open its frequencies to competition. It accepts this, too, because it has a lot of capacity/frequency/availability and does not want to sell it at a lower price, which could damage its brand.

Generally, the MVNOs that buy directly from them are brands of the MVNO (e.g. Red from SFR or Sosh from Orange…). MNOs will prefer to go through intermediaries to simplify management.

Mobile Virtual Network Aggregator (MVNA) :

The MNO can make a strategic choice. Rather than relying on several small MVNOs and having to manage all of them, it will rely on an MVNA. The aggregator will take over the bulk purchase of communications to be resold to its MVNOs. The MVNA will not have end customers directly, unlike the MVNOs it has launched on the market, which will offer their services to companies or individuals (the latter being a rarer case, given that individuals will turn more to MNOs).

Mobile Virtual Network Enabler (MVNE) :

The MVNE may offer more or less the same services as an MVNA. It may even allow the MVNA to connect to the MNO. Why is it called an ENABLER? Simply because it can enable the launch of smaller MVNOs.

The MVNE will play a more important role with its resellers. The telecom business, and especially the mobile business, is complex. It will therefore provide them with a real information system (I.S.) in order to save them precious time. The I.S. will enable MVNOs to place orders with the MVNE and, in some cases, to bill for their services.

Indeed, the billing of mobile communications is much more complex than that of fixed-line telephony. Because of its multiplicity (voice, sms, mms, data) but also because of its roaming. Roaming elements (a French customer browsing on Facebook from his mobile in India for example) can take several days to come up.