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MNO vs MVNO | Difference between MNO and MVNO

This page compares MNO vs MVNO and mentions difference between MNO and MVNO. MNO stands for Mobile Network Operator and MVNO stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operator. It also mentions MVNO originated call and MVNO terminated call diagrams.

Both of these terms are associated with cellular mobile network. MNO refers to mobile network operators who buys radio spectrum and provides end to end service (voice or data) to its subscribers. They establish mobile network towers and also issues SIM cards to avail their network services by handset (or mobile phone) users. MVNO is an operator which offers mobile services to end users. MVNOs do not have government license to use their own radio frequency. MVNO buys spectrum from MNO. The cellular network elements include transmission link, control functions and mobility management functions which keep track of location of mobile handsets. This helps them to provide voice call services as well as data services. Refer cellular communication tutorial >> for more information.

MNO | Mobile Network Operator

MNO-Mobile Network Operator

• MNO is responsible to establish mobile network to provide cellular service both voice/data to the subscribers. This include all of the following.
• MNO purchases radio spectrum from regulators.
• MNO purchases network equipments from vendors to setup the cellular network.
• MNO deploys the equipments and performs testing before providing network service to its users.
• MNO also issues SIM cards, handsets and does handset management.
• MNO offers voice and data services and roaming facility.
• MNO takes care of billing and other charges.
• MNO takes care of providing support to customers.
• MNO also does marketing, sales and distribution.
• Examples of MNOs : Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Airtel, Idea, Reliance etc.

MVNO | Mobile Virtual Network Operator

MVNO-Mobile Virtual Network Operator

• MVNO does not own license to use radio spectrum. Instead MVNO enters into commercial deal with one or multiple wireless network carriers (i.e. MNOs) to allow its customers (or users) to use radio spectrum and other facilities.
• MVNO is basically a reseller of wireless communication services. They buy voice and data packages in bulk from MNOs and sell them to their subscribers/users.
• There are two network elements such as MVNA (Mobile Virtual Network Aggregator) and MVNE (Mobile Virtual Network Enabler) used along with MNO and MVNO elements in the cellular system.
• There are different types of MVNOs e.g. Skinny MVNO, Light/thin MVNO, Full/thick MVNO
• DOT in INDIA has approved more than 50 companies who can provide MVNO services to the subscribers.
• Examples of MVNOs : Lyca Mobile (World's largest International MVNO), BSNL, Aerovoyce etc.


The figure depicts all the elements such as MNO, MVNO, MVNA and MVNE in a typical cellular network.

MVNO Originated Call | MVNO Terminated Call

MVNO call flow
Image courtesy : https://www.itu.int

The figure-1 depicts MVNO originated call and MVNO terminated call flow diagrams. The figure shows signal flow path for in-coming calls to MVNO and outgoing calls from MVNO.

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