Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) are on the rise, what should MNOs do?

September 15, 2023
With the explosion of MVNO business worldwide, which is expected to grow from $92.5 billion (2022) to 157.2 billion (by 2030), MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) are taking notice.

While MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) are able to be nimble in capturing niche customer markets quickly, the MNO has something MVNOs need.  

A network.

Since around 2010, MNOs leveraged their networks to acquire MVNO customers.  They did this by launching wholesale entities and then partnering with Mobile Virtual Network Aggregators (MVNAs) to gain MVNO market share.  MVNAs brought in MVNO customers and were able to cut bulk deals with the MNOs, something an individual MVNO, without group buying power, couldn’t do.

But a network by itself isn’t enough to support MVNO launches.  Besides network infrastructure, MVNOs also need the systems that support their business so it can focus on what it does best…acquiring and satisfying customers. This is where having the right MVNO business models and MVNO strategy becomes critical.

That’s where the MVNE comes in.

MVNE Defined

An MVNE is a “Mobile Virtual Network Enabler,” a company that provides network infrastructure and related services (provisioning, administration, OSS/BSS) for mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) so they can offer services to their own customers. The MVNE supports the MVNO business but does not deal directly with the MVNO’s customers.  They are the bridge between MNO and MVNO.  

As the MVNO market size has grown and matured, we’ve started to see a shift in MNO strategy.  As the MVNE model has proven successful, MNOs are now looking to get more involved at the MVNE level.  Rather than just sell wholesale to MVNAs and leave the MVNA to work out all the details with the MVNO, MNOs are evaluating taking control at the MVNE level.  They do this by either working out preferred MVNE hosting relationships or acquiring MNVE company platforms to bolt onto their systems. MVNO market research shows this is an emerging trend among MNOs looking to capture more of the growing MVNO market share.

While much of this shift is in its infancy, you can start to see examples showing up.

What MNOs have moved to further integrate MVNEs into their ecosystem?

Several MNOs have shifted their strategy from just working with MVNAs to now hosting/partnering with MVNEs providers to implement infrastructure and services to MVNOs.  Let’s take a look at a few of these and how the model is working.


Vodafone implemented an MVNE platform to support their UK MVNO partners.  The system is a “real-time communications platform” that supports payment, customer promotions, and lifecycle campaign services.  Vodafone pursued this platform upgrade as a strategic move to reduce churn.  The platform reduces costs and speeds up MVNO service deployments, coming after they lost key accounts to competitors EE, BV and Talk Talk.  Expectations are that, with their new MVNE relationship, Vodafone will be able to scale its offerings into other countries as well. This aligns with the MVNO market trends of MNO's partnering more closely with MVNEs.

BT Group

BT Group, operating under the EE brand in the United Kingdom (as BT Wholesale), seeing the value of a solid MVNA platform, has extended its partnership with a leading European MVNE/A services provider serving over 100 MVNOs with 1.2 million subscribers, as BT’s focus continues to be on growing with MVNO customers. Partnering with an experienced MVNE allows BT to tap into the provider's expertise in MVNO billing, operations, and other key services.


In late 2022, T-Mobile expanded its agreement with a major MVNE/A player.  “The expanded agreement… unlocks opportunities for enabling multiple MVNOs across a variety of niche wireless markets on the nation’s largest, fastest and most reliable nationwide 5G network” said Dan Thygesen, Senior Vice President of T-Mobile Wholesale. “The strategic value [the MVNE/A] brings to T-Mobile Wholesale is only growing with the addition of these new capabilities”. This partnership positions T-mobile to capitalize on emerging MVNOO trends and opportunities in the 5G era.


Vodacom South Africa recently advertised for an “MVNE Operations Specialist,” likely signaling they’re about to launch an MVNE platform to support MVNO customer growth.  They are competing against Cell C, the first MNO in South Africa to enable MVNO rollouts using its MVNE partner MVN-X, with 2 million subscribers at the end of 2020.

How can an MNO build a good MVNE strategy?

Should an MNO keep an existing wholesaling strategy and work to land MVNA deals as a way to capture market share without requiring much extra investment in the back-end technology needed to support MVNOs?

Is it better for an MNO to develop key MVNE partnerships in order to jointly create a predictable MVNE model without requiring extra development by the MNO?

Or should the MNO invest more heavily in MVNE technology to create a consistent brand?  They could do this by purchasing the tech from an MVNE (likely one that isn’t also an MVNA).  Or they could acquire an MVNE company for its tech stack and migrate over from there.  Or the MNO could develop it from scratch – a process that is likely to take longer, be more expensive, and cause them to lose out on many short-term opportunities.

What digital tools do MNOs need to launch MVNE platforms?

MVNE tools are specific to the MVNE but cover several key areas.

  • Offer Flexibility – The MVNE platform needs to be able to provide the MVNO the ability to launch offers, get customer feedback, and then tweak the offers based on that information.
  • Customer Service – There must be tools to allow for realtime feedback and problem solving with customer service agents.
  • Operational Automation – From signup, to eSIM activation, to billing, all account-related activities should be smooth and easy to work by the MVNO entity as well as their customers.
  • Scalability – MVNOs can go quickly from start-up to needing to increase capacity, as customer acquisitions shoot up due to a successful offer.

triPica is a technology company that specializes in the MVNE technology stack that helps MNOs and MVNOs launch digital telcos in as little as 4 months and get a customer activated and fully processed in under 4 minutes.

Being a tech enabling company that is not an aggregator, an MNO could leverage triPica’s platform and tools without the competitive risk of partnering with a combined MVNE/A company’s platform.  This ensures more of a proprietary, custom-fit solution as an MNO works to take their offers directly to the MVNO client, cutting out the MVNA middle-man in the future and delivering a consistent message to the market.

To learn more about triPica’s digital BSS solution and to explore the opportunity of acquiring an MVNE technology for your MNO, contact us here.