What IsMobile Network Operator?

A mobile network operator refers to a telecommunications entity that provides mobile phone users with wireless voice, video, and data services.

Also known as wireless carriers or wireless service providers, MNOs normally own all the components they need to host and deliver their services to subscribers. These can include elements such as radio spectrum allocation and wireless network infrastructure. 

Mobile network providers typically have cellular towers installed throughout a region in a way that there are no coverage gaps. 

How Do Mobile Network Operators Work?

Mobile network operators form a communication network to which they can provide access for distributing telecommunications services among subscribers. They do this by creating an infrastructure that consists of base stations and transmitter masts, along with the necessary software. 

Each mobile device in the network would have a unique code known as an IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity). This code essentially allows the end-users to access the network service with which they have an agreement. 

Non-local subscribers, on the other hand, would require a roaming deal between the carrier they are connected to and the provider they are subscribed to. 

Mobile Network Operators Vs. Mobile Virtual Network Operators

A mobile network operator normally makes use of an end-to-end network that it owns along with its radio and core infrastructure. This allows the wireless service provider to have full control over the network coverage it provides in any geographical area. 

Network operators buy a frequency spectrum from local authorities and use those licensed frequencies to operate the wireless network. Carrier frequencies enable base stations or cell towers to communicate signals and generate coverage in any location. 

A few examples of mobile network providers include Verizon, T-Mobile, Etisalat, Orange, Vodafone, and Telefonica. 

Unlike full-service carriers, virtual network operators do not own a full radio network. While they may have their own core infrastructure, MVNOs often purchase radio capacity from mobile network operators. Instead, they make use of the MNO’s base stations for coverage. 

A mobile virtual network operator may choose between becoming a light-touch reseller or a full MVNO with a core network along with branding, sales channels, billing, and so on. This depends on the amount of control they prefer to have. 

Regardless of which option a virtual network operator chooses, their cellular coverage always depends on that of the host MNO. Using Telefonica’s radio network, the UK’s Tesco Mobile is one example of an MVNO.