MVNO: Virtual Reality

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

Amobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is a service provider that resells

wireless services under its own brand name but through another company's

network. This mobile operator does not have its own spectrum or even its own

network infrastructure. Instead it ties up with other service providers and buys

minutes of use (MOU) for sale to its own customers. According to Pyramid

research, MVNOs account for 2.75% of the world's mobile users and this figure

is expected to rise to 3.3% by 2010.

Advertisment states that there are around 213 active MVNOs in the world.

Although the majority of these are in Europe, USA is the country with the

largest number of MVNOs, with around 51 active operators.

With their number and popularity growing day-by-day, mobile operators cannot

ignore the impact that MVNOs are having on the market. Besides taking a large

market share, MVNOs are also increasing subscriber acquisition costs. Since they

focus on providing discounted voice services, they have also lowered the ARPU

and have thus increased the price competition.

How Does an MVNO Operate?

A key element in the operations of a MVNO is a mobile virtual network

enabler (MVNE). The MVNE is valuable to a MVNO since it

provides the infrastructure and services that enable MVNOs to provide

services to the end user. This support ranges from network element provisioning,

administration and operations to OSS/BSS support.


Thus, an MVNE often provides the “middle-ground” between MVNOs that want

control over network elements and those who do not. MVNE can help an MVNO to cut

costs and enable them to focus more on customers than on operations. MVNEs also

offer advanced wireless data services applications, content and commerce.

What Drives an MVNO?

The growth of MVNOs can be attributed to 3G developments which have led to

the availability of excess bandwidth. This has created opportunities for the new

players to enter the market. 3G enables them to sell discounted voice-and-data

services. This in turn allows host operators to generate additional revenue from

the use of unused bandwidth.

A number of telecom companies have woken up to the advantages MVNOs offer. In

May 2006, SK Telecom of Korea announced that it was launching MVNO services in

the US through the Helio joint-venture with EarthLink. Disney Mobile will launch

its services in the US in June 2006 and will be leasing a frequency spectrum

from Sprint (CDMA 1xEVDO). Disney MVNO will also target 'family

communication' as its niche demographic market. Mobile ESPN too launched its

MVNO in February 2006 in the US. Mobile ESPN will use Sprint's new EV-DO

network and offer customizable ESPN content such as real-time scores, breaking

news, commentary and analysis, etc.


The future of MVNOs appears to be stable as regulatory environments are also

in favor of MVNOs, especially in developed mobile markets. This increases the

necessity for mobile operators to develop a strong strategy to maximize profits

and minimize the threat from the new wave of MVNOs.

What's for Service Providers?

MVNOs are usually well-known companies who already have a strong customer

base. They operate in such a manner that the subscriber although does not find

much difference in the services and forms loyalty towards the brand. This leads

to reduced acquisition costs for service providers, combined with a large

customer base.

There are many other benefits that a MVNO can provide to a service provider.

MVNO can tap into its underutilized network areas to meet the demand of faster

data transfer. This will help to populate the network leading to revenue

generation. MVNOs also provide consumers with a larger range of schemes,

products and services, helping in customer retention and expansion of customer



They can also drive collaborative growth among the MVNO, the service

provider, and other players such as content providers thereby facilitating

lucrative partnerships.

Besides the saturated voice market, operators are facing the problem of

optimum penetration levels. Here, MVNOs are proving to be favorable partners to

offer differentiated value-added services, which will help in tapping new

customers and driving incremental revenues.

MVNO: The Face of the Future

Analysts predict that despite there being a large number of entrants in the

MVNO market, only those who have unique strategies, defined processes and firm

partnerships will survive. Today, MVNO is fast becoming the most-popular telecom

acronym outside the industry. With a number of them already present in Europe

and America, the time is not far when they will become a reality in India too.

Sonia Sharma