The modern-day telecom industry is going through transitions faster than ever before. Addressing the demands of finicky customers, fighting off the competition at every step of the way and countering the threat of OTT platforms is proving too much to handle for even seasoned telecom operators. This is the main reason why they are trying to maximize their outreach in every way possible. As a result of their efforts, new platforms for telecom service delivery have being created in the form of: MNO, MVNO, MVNA, and MVNE.
1. Mobile Network Operator (MNO): The Big Players in the Telecom Market
An MNO is the ubiquitous telecom services provider. It is a major player in the telecom industry that performs the task of provisioning and delivering telecom services to its subscribers. Some of the operations performed by an MNO are listed below:
- Procurement of resources – An MNO is generally a self-sufficient entity that needs to have all the hardware and software resources at its disposal. Hardware resources include network and radio equipment like TCUs, masts, routers, BSC, MSC, MME, transmitters, BTS, wires, switches, BSS, OSS, HLR, VLR, GMSC etc. Software resources required are CRM, telecom billing software etc. Apart from non-living entities, an MNO also requires a human workforce that can perform important operations like installation, commissioning and transportation of hardware devices.
- Buying/leasing access to wireless frequency spectrum – One thing that differentiates an MNO from other smaller telecom players is their access to the wireless frequency spectrum. MNOs get into agreements with their respective national regulatory bodies and purchase the spectrum of their choice. Spectrum is the most essential component of the telecom industry as it is used for carrying voice and text data over the air interface.
- Forging partnerships – The operations of an MNO are vast and require the help of vendors for their successful accomplishment. Partnerships with handset manufacturers, OTT vendors and many more are required, so an MNO can carry out its operations appropriately.
- Marketing and branding – Marketing and branding are crucial for acquiring new subscribers. As an MNO has access to vast spectrum, it requires a large subscriber base in order to make profits. Without enough subscribers, telcos will be left with unused resources (on which they have already invested on).
A few examples of MNO are T-Mobile, Vodafone, Verizon, Orange and Telefonica. As MNOs have access to frequency in a particular region of the country, it is possible that an MNO at one location may act like an MVNO in a different region of the country.
2. Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO): The Best Friend of MNOs
MVNOs are an integral part of the modern-day telecom industry. As it is almost impossible for an MNO to cater to the requirements of all the customers in a particular region, it makes sense to partner with an MVNO. An MVNO develops its own customized plans, which gives it the power to create innovative bundles and packages to lure customers (who are not using the services from the MNO).
Suppose there is an MNO who has a sprawling network but does not have enough subscribers. It is leaking revenue and the bottom line is going down. In this scenario, if it partners with an MVNO, it gets three clear benefits:
Benefit 1: The MNO gets revenue from the users who have cancelled their subscription.
Benefit 2: The MNO gets revenue from subscribers who have left its competitors.
Benefit 3: The MNO gets revenue from new customers who either take its own subscription or it’s partnering MVNO’s subscription.
Some examples of MVNOs operational in the US are Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Straight Talk, and Consumer Cellular.
Classifications of MVNOs
All MVNOs are not the same when it comes to their capabilities. Although all MVNOs get their slice of spectrum from an MNO, their classification varies depending on their other capabilities. Below is a classification of the various types of MVNOs based on their business models:
- Full MVNO: A full MVNO as the name indicates is the most capable in terms of resources. It has its own HLR (Home Location Register), networking hardware, routing capabilities, applications, customer care, handset management, billing and collection, online charging system for MVNO as well as marketing and sales.
- Light MVNO: It does not have its own HLR but shares it with its partnering MNO. It also lacks the networking infrastructure and hardware but have all other capabilities that a full MVNO has.
- Second Brand MVNO: As the name suggests, a second brand MVNO serves as a second brand for its partnering MVNO. It has all the capabilities of a light MVNO but depends on an MNO for application and services.
- Branded Reseller MVNO: Branded reseller MVNO only focuses on marketing and sales, and leaves all other tasks for its partnering MNO.
A classification based on infrastructural capabilities:
- Skinny MVNOs: These MVNOs have their own voice mail, content applications, SMSC, prepaid and VAS.
- Thin MVNOs: Along with the aforementioned services, they also have EIR, HLR, AUC and Intelligent Network (IN).
- Thick MVNOs: Including the services mentioned above, they also have a VLR and MSC.
An MVNO is an interesting new concept in the telecom industry that has its own niche and scope. However, for an MVNO to be successful, it needs to understand its market and also have the capability to come up with innovative plans for attracting the subscribers.
3. Mobile Virtual Network Enabler (MVNE): The Enablers
MVNEs are a vital cog in today’s telecom scene. They offer network devices and equipment along with important services like BSS (Business Support Systems), OSS (Operation Support Systems) and telecom billing software solutions to MVNOs. An MVNE has expertise in strategizing, implementing and managing telecom services. Some important tasks that an MVNE does are listed below:
- SIM provisioning
- SIM configuration
- Call charging and rating with an Online Charging System (OCS)
- Convergent charging and billing
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Providing Value Added Services (VAS)
- Tracking and billing for newer services like Internet of Things (IoT)
Some examples of popular MVNEs in the US are Vcare, Conecto and Teleena.
Advantages of partnering with an MVNE
Partnerships between MVNOs and MVNEs are completely based on each other’s specific requirements. While a thick MVNO or a full MVNO that have ample resources and their own network infrastructure are more than capable of running their operations without an MVNE, it is the smaller MVNOs that can profit the most from a relationship with a capable MVNE. Some benefits of an MVNO/MVNE partnership are:
- This partnership reduces the initial investment that needs to be made by an MVNO, which allows it to get into the business world even with meager resources.
- No requirement for technical expertise. Even an amateur in technology can use his branding and marketing prowess for excelling in this business by partnering with an MVNE that has realtime charging solutions.
- An MVNO can solely focus on creating new plans and leave the tension of managing BSS, OSS and OCS system to a capable MVNE.
4. MVNA (Mobile Virtual Network Aggregator): The Binding Force between MVNOs
An MNO partners with an MVNO for increasing its revenues. However, it has been seen that partnering with too many MVNOs that have smaller subscriber base is not all that profitable after all. For example, 5 MVNOs with 10,000 subscribers each are a lot more profitable than 10 MVNOs with 5,000 subscribers. What an MNO needs is less number of MVNOs with larger subscriber bases as its partner. This is where an MVNA comes into the picture. Although MVNOs perform a task very similar to an MVNE (like offering complete network infrastructure and related software solutions); they are more about negotiating a wholesale agreement with an MNO.
MVNA is a business model that aggregates many small MVNOs into a single MVNO. This allows MNOs to manage their MVNOs conveniently and improve their profits considerably. An MVNA does not have its own subscriber base but only the subscribers of its partnering MVNOs. Some of the advantages of partnering with an MVNA are:
As an MVNA represents many MVNOs, it is more capable of negotiating better deals with an MNO. This allows an MVNO to procure services at a considerably reduced price, which later helps it in increasing its profit margins.
- Allows an MVNO to launch its services on an MVNA platform without any direct partnership with an MNO
- Reduces the need for managing an IT staff, which frees up an MVNO to focus on its marketing,
- Offers a proven technology to the MVNOs, which can be completely relied upon
- Ensures faster time to market for your product and allows you to exploit the customer base.
- Allows you to respond faster to competitive offers by other brands in the market
- Makes adoption of newer technologies easier
In this age of competition in the telecom industry, a differentiation in services holds key to garnering customer interest. With MVNOs, MVNEs and MVNAs and MNOs partnerships, it is possible to offer customized services to different customer bases at an attractive price point.