An MVNO enters into a business agreement with a mobile network operator to obtain bulk access to network services at wholesale rates, then sets retail prices independently. An MVNO may use its own customer service, billing support systems, marketing, and sales personnel, or it could employ the services of a mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE).
MVNO agreements with network operators date back to the 1990s, when the European telecom market saw market liberalization, new regulatory frameworks, better 2G network technology, and a subsequent jump in wireless subscriber numbers. Though the new 2G networks more efficiently managed the limited frequency bands allocated to wireless service, new mobile entrants were still limited by their ability to access frequency bands in a restricted spectrum.
With European markets newly open to competition and new technology enabling better service and cheaper handsets, there was a massive surge in demand for cellular phones. In the midst of this swell, Sense Communications fought for access to mobile network operator (MNO) spectrum in Scandinavia in 1997. Sense was able to establish an MVNO agreement with Sonera in Finland, but it failed to persuade MNOs in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. Sense then appealed to EU regulators, citing provisions that required certain MNOs to allow new entrants interconnection. While Sense's claim was denied, in November 1999, the company signed a service provider agreement with Telia/Telenor Mobile for GSM network capacity access, allowing Sense to offer services to its own customers in Sweden and Norway.
By the end of 2020, 110.7 million people will use the services of mobile virtual operators (MVNO) in Europe. Such data are contained in a report compiled from a WiseGuyReports analyst study. The cumulative average annual growth rate in the period from 2015 to 2020. expected at 5%.
The experts also concluded that the largest MVNO market in Germany by 2020 will remain. It will feature more than 140 mobile virtual operators. The second place in terms of the introduction of this technology will take the UK. Data on the number of subscribers in these countries at the end of 2015 is 23 million and 14.1 million people, respectively. WiseGuyReports ranks Belgium, Spain, Denmark, and Holland among other growth foci.
WiseGuyReports analysts give a main list of reasons that directly affect the increase in the popularity of MVNO in Europe. Among them - the increasing penetration of smartphones and the active introduction of 4G and 4G + formats. Expanding the range of additional services also has a beneficial effect. Breakthrough growth until 2020 can be observed not only in the traditional sectors of MNVO, but also, for example, in the M2M segment. The most preferred business model on the continent will remain an approach that involves various discounts on services. Its share is 21%. A niche approach focused on retirees, young people, students and employees of non-profit organizations is practiced by 20% of the MVNOs present in the region. Another 19% of operators are focused on business.
Experts note that a favorable regulatory system remains an important element in the development of the MVNO market. For mobile operators, special rules of the game are being developed, which stimulate competition and are aimed at reducing tariffs and removing barriers for new operators.