What is an MNO (Mobile Network Operator)?

What is the meaning MNO? How does an MNO work? Click here to find out all about the MNO (Mobile Network Operator)

IoT Glossary by Freeeway AG

Quick definition: MNO (Mobile Network Operator)

An MNO, or a Mobile Network Operator, is a telecommunication company that provides cellular network services to mobile phone subscribers for wireless voice and data connectivity. MNOs are responsible for providing wireless communication infrastructure and services to users in a specific region or geography. MNOs are often addressed as wireless service providers, wireless carriers, cellular companies, or mobile network providers.

What is a Mobile Network Operator (MNO)?

A Mobile Network Operator, as a cellular service provider, creates a telecommunication network over a region. MNOs are responsible for setting up telecommunication equipment, software solutions, and connectivity networks to subscribers for end-to-end communication and exchange of SMS, voice, and data.

How does an MNO work?

MNOs are cellular connectivity network infrastructure providers, and they target to cover a particular geographical range through a network of their base and transmission stations. This network infrastructure is then responsible for exchanging telecommunication information such as voice, video, and data between subscribers or end-application devices.

Furthermore, MNOs allocate a unique code called IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) to every subscriber’s mobile phone device. This code authorizes them to register and access respective network services once in the range. For subscribers that are not local, there must be a roaming agreement between MNOs they can connect to and MNOs that they are subscribed to.

From voice calls to uploading/downloading data, Mobile Network Operators are responsible for providing connectivity to users. These MNOs often operate in the same area or region, allowing the subscriber to choose the most effective plan accordingly.

What is the difference between MNO and MVNO?

While there are Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) who own the network infrastructure and radio spectrums, there are other Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) that rent access to this infrastructure to provide their services.

MNOs own the radio bands, government licenses, and core network infrastructure to provide telecommunication services. On the other hand, MVNOs can own some of these infrastructure assets or can act as resellers while adding value to the billing, customer care, marketing, and sales operations.

In terms of investments, MNOs have to put their own capital into setting up telecom base stations, equipment, and a complete communication range. On the other hand, MVNOs just lease the infrastructure as needed, making them a cheaper alternative compared to MNOs in some cases.

What does MNO stand for in telecom?

MNOs in the telecom industry play a vital role in establishing and delivering the entire network infrastructure and connectivity. Here are the different roles of MNOs in telecom:

  • Offering mobile network service to customers for SMS, voice, and data
  • Purchase radio bands spectrum from government regulators.
  • Own and implement network equipment to set up the cellular network.
  • Develop, buy, and test telecom equipment.
  • Issues and manages SIM cards and handsets.
  • Managing roaming agreements and facilities.


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