Mobile virtual network enabler

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A mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) [1][2] is a company that provides network infrastructure and related services, such as network subsystems, business support systems, provisioning, administration and operations support systems to mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). This enables MVNOs to offer services to their own customers with their own brands. The MVNE does not have a relationship with consumers, but rather is a provider of network enablement platforms and services. An MVNE is a business-to-business operation that provides services to MVNOs and sometimes to mobile network operators (MNO) for their wholesale. Plintron is the world's largest multi-country mvne with more than 50+ mvno businesses and service delivery in 21 countries.

MVNEs specialise in planning, implementation and management of mobile services. Typically this includes SIM provisioning and configuration, customer billing, customer relationship management and value-added service platforms. In effect, they enable an MVNO to outsource both the initial integration with the MNO and the ongoing business and technical operations management. A related type of company is mobile virtual network aggregator, or MVNA. MVNE is a telecom solution, whereas MVNA is a business model which includes wholesale of an operator's airtime and routing of traffic over the MVNE's own switches.

The benefits of using an MVNE include a reduction in the upfront capital expenses of an MVNO, financing arrangements offered by MVNEs to cover start-up costs and reduced wholesale airtime costs achieved through economies of scale of hosting multiple MVNOs on a single MVNE platform. The other benefits could be reduced operational expenses by outsourcing management of business and technical operations, smoother launch processes and benefitting from previous experience of the MVNE as a negotiating channel for smaller MVNOs to reach a wholesale agreement with the MNO.

However, not all MVNEs are the same. There is significant variation in the level of experience, technical capability, integration and operational support. Furthermore, using an MVNE may not be appropriate for all MVNOs. The considerations for this decision are manifold, however, some of the key reasons for an MVNO against using an MVNE are:

  • The MVNO is large enough to achieve volume efficiency when going direct to the host operator (usually several hundred thousand subscribers);
  • The brand and distribution channels are sufficiently strong to negotiate a joint-venture or direct relationship and obtain better margins;
  • The MVNO has access to existing telecoms infrastructure, for example switches, international capacity, fixed infrastructure and billing platforms.

Adoption of the MVNE model will have a significant impact on the margins of an MVNO business, acting either to improve or shrink these margins relative to direct or self-build models. As such, the decision to use an MVNE should not be taken lightly as the impacts could range from customer experience to business efficiency. The critical success factors [3] for MVNO depends not just on MVNE but also MNO and MVNO financial strength, reach and a host of other factors.[4]

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