What is MVNO and how does it work? An MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator, is a company that uses the infrastructure of an existing mobile network operator to provide wireless services. It typically leases capacity on wireless networks from other providers to resell to its own customers. MVNOs are not common in the United States, where there is only a handful of them, but they are popular in other countries.
Pure MVNOs own no wireless network infrastructure. Most MVNOs offer prepaid services in contrast with postpaid (contract) services offered by major mobile carriers in the United States. Customers generally load minutes, text messages, and data onto “pay as you go” SIM cards individually rather than committing to long-term contracts involving subsidized handsets.
How does it work? The company that creates an MVNO generally licenses technology from one of the big four national carriers – AT&T Inc, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile US, or Sprint Corp – then puts its own name on it. Company executives typically buy wholesale services at a discount rate and resell them to subscribers under their own brand name after adding unique features for their customers.
For instance, Boost Mobile is a Sprint MVNO, and Republic Wireless uses a combination of Sprint’s wireless network and Wi-Fi for its calling services. You should have this in mind if you are encountering a Spectrum Vs Verizon dilemma and do thorough internet research on the subject before you make up your mind. When you do this you will be sure you’ve made the right choice.
These MVNOs operate on someone else’s network. This means they don’t have their own cellular towers but piggyback off of one or more carriers. A popular example of this is Straight Talk Wireless, which runs on the T-Mobile and Sprint networks.
Carrier-based MVNOs (also known as non-hosted MVNOs) run off their own network. A carrier will typically subcontract with several companies to create these services, allowing them to expand rapidly while maintaining control over the end-user experience. For instance, AT&T owns Cricket Wireless, which it uses to sell prepaid wireless services under its brand name (the company has an actual retail presence). There are also many examples of independent carrier-based virtual operators in the US. For instance, Page Plus Cellular offers prepaid service on Verizon’s network.
Mobile Virtual Network Enabler (MVNE)
An MVNE is a company that provides connectivity between carriers, independent software vendors (ISVs), and others without owning any network infrastructure or licensing the rights to use the radio spectrum. MVNEs generally have agreements with one or more wireless providers to load their services onto carrier-branded handsets sold by the carriers themselves. The MVNO may buy minutes from an MVNE wholesale, which in turn may purchase them through a mobile network operator. Or, both can work together as part of their agreement. How does it work? For example, Apple’s iPhones are not compatible with all networks because they don’t support all cellular technologies used around the world. An MVNO can work with an MVNE to manage this problem by creating a virtual iPhone designed for the network they want to support. Afterward, they can purchase airtime from any mobile operator that offers SIM cards and resell them under their own brand name.
MVNOs are not limited to specific carriers. Instead, they can be found on most wireless providers, including AT&T (Net10 Wireless), Verizon (Page Plus Cellular), T-Mobile (Metro PCS, GoSmart Mobile), Sprint (Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile USA), and others. This means you don’t have to change your phone company if you decide to switch to an MVNO. This means that their coverage isn’t as broad as those of the big four carriers. At the same time, customers report that MVNO coverage is just fine for most purposes and their services will be good enough unless you live in a remote area or you travel abroad frequently.
What is the difference between MVNOs and prepaid?
MVNOs are sometimes confused with prepaid services offered by major carriers in the United States, but there are some big differences between the two.
Prepaid service requires that subscribers pay upfront for their cellphone usage before using it. Prepaid contracts generally do not require credit checks, but subsidies are limited. On the one hand, this means that subscribers often cannot get the latest flagship devices (MVNOs can solve this). On the other hand, it means they can keep their monthly bills low if they use their phone sparingly.
Most MVNOs offer prepaid service rather than standard postpaid options, however, there are plenty of exceptions. For example, Page Plus Cellular offers postpaid plans in addition to its prepaid services on Verizon’s network. Straight Talk Wireless is another exception since it actually uses two MVNOs: TracFone and Net10 Wireless. Most individuals looking for an MVNO plan should start with a prepaid option; however, if you have a poor credit history or need more flexibility, a postpaid contract might be the right choice.
Who uses an MVNO?
Today, people around the world use MVNOs for all kinds of reasons. Many individuals and families find that they can save money by shopping for prepaid phone plans from an MVNO instead of a major carrier or one of their subsidiaries. Students will often benefit from using an MVNO as well because these services generally offer lower prices than those offered by carriers such as AT&T and Verizon. Students also appreciate that some providers now allow multiple users on family plans. This means parents and siblings can put their kids on the same plan with just a few clicks. If you travel frequently, buying SIM cards in foreign countries is another to reduce your international roaming fees. And finally, MVNOs are a good option for those who spend little time on the phone each month and prefer to keep control of their monthly expenses.
MVNOs have been growing in popularity in recent years as people become savvier about their options and look for ways to save money on cell phone services. They offer a wide range of plans that can fit most budgets, and you can usually find one that uses the same network as your current carrier so you don’t have to change phones or deal with coverage issues. If you’re looking for a way to reduce your monthly expenses, an MVNO may be the perfect option for you.