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What is an MVNO?

MVNOs are relatively new to the spectrum of mobile phone operators, as they started appearing only in the latter part of the first decade of the second millenium. Standing for Mobile Virtual Network Operators, this acronym refers to operators which don’t actually own a physical network of cellular transmitters and antennas, but use the infrastructure and capacity of proper historical mobile phone carriers. 


Cheaper call rates - sometimes 50% cheaper - and the absence of binding contracts are the main advantages provided by these operators.


On the other hand, several disadvantages have to be considered. Indeed, virtual operators suffer from a few limitations which prospective customers should seriously look into. The most serious ones are related to call quality and roaming. As traditional carriers rent MVNOs a bit of their network capacity, they apply what is called “prioritisation”, which means that they keep the best data packets, the best call quality for use by their own customers. Thus, during peak airtime consumption hours, customers of MVNOs may suffer from call degradation.

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Lack of roaming represents another issue with these virtual operators, as their users travelling and needing to connect to an overseas local operator to receive phone service but also for users at home, where major carriers have agreements with each other to share their networks where there is no proprietary coverage by one of them. Most of the time, MVNOs are kept away from such arrangements.


Finally, MVNOs operate on low-cost models, which means customer service may be inferior to the one offered by more established providers.


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