Is it really a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO)? Practical tests to help you decide

A Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) is an entity that has a legal agreement with a nationally licensed Mobile Network Operator (MNO) that allows the entity to contract directly with end-users offering those end-users the provision of mobile airtime service. The MVNO offers the proposal to end customers under its own brand, is free to set rates and fee structures, and contracts directly with the end customer.

However, there is much debate and confusion surrounding the exact definition of the term MVNO, below is a list of simple tests that will help distinguish whether an entity is an MVNO, an Enhanced Service Provider (ESP), or an Enhanced Service Provider (ESP). services (SP).

The term MVNO means different things to different people. Even the term MVNO is in dispute, some refer to an MVNO other to a VMNO: * MVNO is an abbreviation for Mobile Virtual Mobile Network * VMNO is an abbreviation for Virtual Mobile Network Operator

The mobile industry has been very supportive of Service Providers (SPs) since its inception, mainly due to a regulatory model introduced in the UK to encourage competition between Racal Telecom (now Vodafone) and British Telecom (now mmO2 o2 Telefónica).

The boundary between the definition of a Service Provider (SP), Enhanced Service Provider (ESP), and MVNO is blurred.

The following are key tests to determine if an entity is an MVNO:

Does the entity hold a national GSM or UMTS spectrum license?

* Yes, so the agreement will most likely be a Domestic Roaming Agreement.

* No – continue.

Is the brand of the host MNOs significantly visible in the entity’s go-to-market proposal?

* Yes, it’s not an MVNO, it’s most likely a service provider (SP).

* No, it could be an MVNO or ESP.

Does the entity establish its own marketing proposal and rate plans?

* No, so the agreement is most likely a Service Provider (SP) Agreement.

* Yes, it could be an MVNO or ESP.

Does the entity integrate with the host MNO, for example: to terminate traffic, handle call control, or offer specific value-added functions that require intervention in the core network?

* Yes, the entity is most likely an MVNO.

* No, it could be SP or ESP.

Does the entity receive a portion of the incoming termination revenue?

* Yes, the entity is most likely an MVNO.

* No, it could be MVNO, SP or ESP.

The following tests are not relevant to determining whether an entity is an MVNO: Does the entity own or operate its own billing system? Why? Historically, Service Providers (SPs) have operated their own billing systems. Some MVNOs rely on the host MNO to provide branded billing services.

Does the entity have a GSM guardband license? Why? The fact that an entity holds a GSM guardband license does NOT obligate any MNO to provide a domestic roaming agreement.

Who owns the client? Why? A Service Provider (SP) legally owns the customer relationship.

Who is responsible for bad debts? Why? A Service Provider (SP) may be held legally responsible for the customer’s non-compliance.

Is the entity an authorized GSM operator in another jurisdiction and a member of the GSM Association (GSMA)? Why? This fact is not relevant to the national jurisdiction.

More information on this topic and a variety of free white papers can be found at

(C) Piran Partners LLP 2007. Piran Partners LLP is a leading provider of professional services to the wireless (mobile) telecommunications industry. Headquartered in London, England, the company has a global reach. +44 (0) 87 087 99 300.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *