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What is an MVNO?

MVNO stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operator. It is a company that provides mobile phone services but does not own the wireless infrastructure that it uses.

An MVNO will usually sign an agreement with a Mobile Network Operator MNO (who has its own infrastructure) and then sell mobile services using that infrastructure. They will have all the operational capability to package and sell services, manage billing, and sell value added services, but lease access to base stations, transceivers and switching centers.

What are the different types of MVNO?

MVNOs are categorized according to the ‘depth’ of the technology layer that they add on top of the infrastructure that they lease:

  • Skinny MVNO or branded reseller – has little or none of its own infrastructure and relies completely on the host MNO to provide these and set the prices that they can resell services at.
  • Light MVNO or service provider – will have its own customer support operation, in addition to a marketing and sales function. Light MVNOs are able to set prices themselves.
  • Thick MVNO or enhanced service provider – has enough of its own infrastructure and technical add-ons that they are able to offer a greater depth of products and services and thereby differentiate themselves from their host MNO.