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What is a Mobile Network Operator (MNO)?

Mobile Network Operators (MNO): What You Need to Know

Mobile networks have become an essential part of our daily lives. We use them to stay connected with friends and family, to access information, and to conduct business. Without mobile networks, we would not be able to enjoy the convenience and flexibility that we have become accustomed to. But most of us give little thought to what a mobile network operator (MNO) is, what it does, or the challenges they face.

What is a Mobile Network Operator (MNO)?

A mobile network operator (MNO) is a company that provides wireless communication services to its customers. These services include voice and data transfer over a wireless network, which is made up of a network of cell sites spread out across a geographic area.

Mobile networks use a system of radio frequencies to connect devices to the internet and to each other. The network is made up of several components: the core network, the radio access network, and the user equipment. The core network is responsible for connecting multiple networks and providing services to users, while the radio access network provides wireless access to the core network. The user equipment refers to the devices that connect to the network, such as smartphones and tablets.


The Evolution of Mobile Networks

Mobile networks have evolved rapidly since the introduction of the first-generation (2G) networks, which were primarily used for voice communication. The second-generation (2.5G) networks added the ability to send and receive data over a wireless connection. The third-generation (3G) networks introduced data transfer at higher speeds, making it possible to stream videos and music over the internet. Fourth-generation (4G) networks offer faster data transfer speeds and improved network stability, while fifth-generation (5G) networks are expected to deliver even faster speeds and lower latency.

As mobile networks have evolved, so have the devices that connect to them. Smartphones and tablets have become more powerful, with larger screens and better cameras. This has led to an increase in the amount of data that is transferred over mobile networks as users stream videos, play games, and use social media on their devices.

Types of Mobile Networks (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G)

The different generations of mobile networks offer different levels of service. 2G networks provided voice communication, while 3G networks added basic data transfer capabilities. 4G networks greatly improved data transfer and opened the doors to video streaming and gaming on mobile devices. 5G networks are expected to revolutionize the mobile industry even further, delivering speeds that are up to 100 times faster than 4G and enabling new technologies like virtual reality and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Mobile networks are constantly evolving, with new technologies and services being introduced all the time. As 5G networks become more widespread, we can expect to see even more innovation in the mobile industry, with new applications and services that we can't even imagine today.

The Role of a Mobile Network Operator

A mobile network operator (MNO) plays a crucial role in providing wireless communication services to its customers. In today's digital age, mobile phones have become an essential part of our lives, and MNOs are the backbone of the mobile communication industry. They are responsible for ensuring that customers can make calls, send messages, and access the internet on their mobile devices. Let's take a closer look at the various responsibilities of an MNO.

Wireless Network Infrastructure

One of the most critical responsibilities of an MNO is to invest in the infrastructure needed to provide wireless services to its customers. This includes building and maintaining cell sites, installing equipment, and upgrading network components to keep up with new technologies. The MNO needs to ensure that the network infrastructure is robust, reliable, and scalable to meet the growing demands of its customers.

Moreover, MNOs also need to ensure that their network infrastructure is secure. They must protect their customers' personal and sensitive information from cyber threats and data breaches.

Managing Network Services

Along with providing access to the network, MNOs must also manage the services provided by the network. This includes maintaining Quality of Service (QoS) levels, ensuring network availability, and managing network congestion during peak usage times. MNOs need to ensure that their customers can access the network without any disruptions or delays.

Furthermore, MNOs need to keep up with the latest technological advancements and upgrade their network services accordingly. For instance, the deployment of 5G technology is a significant development in the mobile communication industry, and MNOs need to ensure that their network services are compatible with this new technology.

Customer Support and Billing

MNOs are also responsible for providing support to their customers and billing for services rendered. They may offer customer service through multiple channels, including phone, email, and chat support, to make it easy for customers to get the help they need. MNOs need to ensure that their customer support is prompt, efficient, and effective.

Moreover, MNOs need to ensure that their billing systems are accurate and transparent. They must provide customers with a clear breakdown of their bills and ensure that there are no hidden charges or fees.

In conclusion, the role of an MNO is critical in providing wireless communication services to customers. From building and maintaining network infrastructure to managing network services and providing customer support and billing, MNOs have a broad range of responsibilities. As technology continues to evolve, MNOs need to keep up with the latest trends and developments to ensure that they provide the best possible services to their customers.

Key Players in the Mobile Network Operator Industry

The mobile network operator industry is a vast and complex arena, with numerous players operating in various capacities. From large multinational corporations to small regional providers, the mobile network operator industry is a dynamic and ever-changing landscape.

Major MNOs Worldwide

AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are some of the largest mobile network operators in the United States, with a combined market share of over 80%. These companies offer a wide range of services, including voice, data, and messaging services, as well as various value-added services such as mobile payments and mobile advertising.

Outside of the United States, Vodafone, T-Mobile, and Orange are major operators in Europe, with a combined market share of over 60%. These companies offer similar services to their American counterparts but also provide additional services such as mobile banking and mobile health services.

Regional MNOs

Regional MNOs are companies that provide wireless services in a specific geographic area. These operators may partner with larger companies to provide roaming services for their customers outside of their coverage area. Examples include Cricket Wireless (AT&T) and MetroPCS (T-Mobile).

Emerging MNOs

Emerging MNOs are companies that are new to the industry or are in the process of expanding their coverage area. These companies may focus on providing services to underserved areas or may specialize in specific services, such as IoT connectivity. Examples include China Mobile, SoftBank, and Google Fi.

As the mobile network operator industry continues to evolve, it is likely that we will see new players emerge and existing players adapt to changing market conditions. Whether it is through mergers and acquisitions, partnerships with other companies, or the development of new technologies and services, the mobile network operator industry will continue to be a key player in the global telecommunications landscape.

How MNOs Generate Revenue

Mobile network operators offer services like voice calls, messaging, and data transfer through their network. They earn revenue by charging customers through subscriptions or pay-as-you-go plans. MNOs also partner with companies to provide other services like mobile payments or content streaming.

Branded Reseller MVNOs

MVNOs are wireless carriers that offer mobile communications services without owning their own mobile network infrastructure. Branded reseller MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) work by leasing network services from other companies and controlling access to them through SIM cards. These MVNOs offer innovative solutions in mobility and connectivity and provide excellent customer care, billing, and repair organizations. Branded reseller MVNOs are prevalent in Europe and the Americas, with companies like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T providing such services.

Enhanced Service Providers and Light MVNOs

Independent communication service providers that operate without owning a network infrastructure are known as enhanced service providers and light MVNOs. For subscribed mobile users, an MVNO acts as a provider of wireless communication services—such as internet connectivity and wireless voice and data services—using leased radio spectrum licenses from government entities.

Characteristic of a mobile network carrier, they also provide customer care, billing, and repair organizations while controlling access via computer systems.

Full MVNOs and full infrastructure MVNOs

Full MVNOs and full infrastructure MVNOs are innovative solutions offered by mobile virtual network operators that provide wireless communications services to subscribed mobile users without owning the network infrastructure themselves. These types of MVNOs have more control over network management, billing, and customer care functions, as well as access and real-time system hosting.

Challenges Faced by Mobile Network Operators

The mobile network operator industry is facing several challenges, including:

Broadband Network Congestion and Capacity

As more users access mobile networks and consume more data, the capacity of the network to handle the traffic can become strained. MNOs must invest in new infrastructure and technologies to keep up with the demand.

One solution to network congestion is the implementation of small cell technology. Small cells are low-powered radio access nodes that can be placed in areas with high user demand, such as shopping malls or stadiums. They can help offload traffic from the main network and improve overall network performance.

Another solution is network virtualization, which allows MNOs to create multiple virtual networks on a single physical network infrastructure. This can help optimize network resources and improve network efficiency.

Broadband Network Congestion and Capacity

Security and Privacy Concerns

MNOs must ensure that their networks are secure and that customer data is protected from hackers and cyberthreats. With the increasing number of connected devices and the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), the attack surface for MNOs is expanding.

MNOs play a crucial role in managing and securing their networks against various threats, including malicious bots. Bot management involves the detection, prevention, and mitigation of bot activities on digital platforms. Bots are automated software programs that can perform various tasks, both legitimate and malicious, over the internet. In the context of mobile networks, bots can be used for activities such as spamming, credential stuffing, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, fraud, and other malicious activities.

For MNOs, bot management is essential for several reasons:

  • Network Performance: Bots can generate excessive traffic, leading to network congestion and degradation of service quality for legitimate users. MNOs need to implement measures to detect and prevent bot-driven activities that can negatively impact network performance.
  • Security: Bad bots can be utilized for launching attacks on mobile networks, compromising user data, and exploiting vulnerabilities. MNOs must have robust bot management mechanisms in place to identify and block malicious bots, thus protecting their network infrastructure and the data of their subscribers.
  • Revenue Protection: Bots can be used for fraudulent activities such as fake app downloads, ad fraud, or fake account creation, resulting in financial losses for MNOs. Effective bot management helps identify and prevent these fraudulent activities, safeguarding the revenue streams of mobile operators.
  • User Experience: Bots can also interfere with the user experience on mobile networks. For example, bots can generate spam messages or calls, send unwanted notifications, or manipulate online polls or ratings. MNOs need to implement bot management solutions to maintain a positive user experience for their subscribers.
Bad Bots and Beyond: 2023 State of the Threat Report
Bad Bots and Beyond: 2023 State of the Threat Report

To address these challenges, the Arkose Labs bot management platform uses techniques such as bot traffic analysis, behavior-based detection, machine learning algorithms, and reputation systems. These techniques help MNOs identify and differentiate between legitimate user traffic and bot-driven activities, allowing them to take appropriate actions to mitigate the impact of malicious bots.

Overall, effective bot management is crucial for mobile network operators to ensure network performance, protect against security threats, safeguard revenue streams, and provide a positive user experience for their subscribers.

Regulatory Compliance

MNOs must also comply with regulations and laws related to billing, data usage, and emergency services. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines and legal action.

One area of regulatory compliance that has become increasingly important is net neutrality. Net neutrality is the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally, without discrimination or preference given to certain types of traffic or websites. MNOs must ensure that they are in compliance with net neutrality regulations in the countries where they operate.

Another area of regulatory compliance is emergency services. MNOs must provide access to emergency services such as 911 or 112 and ensure that their networks are capable of handling emergency calls. They must also comply with regulations related to emergency alerts and notifications.


In conclusion, mobile network operators play a critical role in providing wireless connectivity to customers around the world. As the industry continues to evolve, MNOs must adapt their infrastructure, services, revenue models, and security solutions in order to thrive. To learn more about how Arkose Labs can help MNOs and other telecommunications providers—talk to an expert today.


Both MNOs and MVNOs play important roles in the mobile telecommunications industry. MNOs invest in building and maintaining the physical network infrastructure, while MVNOs leverage that infrastructure to offer mobile services to their customers under their own brand.

MNO (Mobile Network Operator): An MNO, also known as a mobile carrier or network operator, is a company that owns and operates the physical infrastructure necessary for providing mobile telecommunications services. MNOs typically invest in building and maintaining their own network infrastructure, including cell towers, base stations, and switching centers. They hold licenses to operate specific radio frequencies and provide mobile services directly to end-users. Examples of MNOs include AT&T, Verizon, Vodafone, and China Mobile.

MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator): An MVNO is a company that offers mobile telecommunications services to customers without owning the underlying network infrastructure. Instead of building and maintaining their own physical network, MVNOs lease network capacity and services from MNOs. They enter into agreements with one or multiple MNOs to access their network infrastructure and provide services to their customers under their own brand. MVNOs essentially act as resellers of mobile services. Examples of MVNOs include Boost Mobile, Tracfone, Virgin Mobile, and Lycamobile.

Key differences between MNOs and MVNOs include:

  • Infrastructure Ownership: MNOs own and operate their network infrastructure, while MVNOs rely on the infrastructure of MNOs.
  • Network Control: MNOs have full control over their network infrastructure, including coverage, quality of service, and network management. MVNOs do not have direct control over the network infrastructure and must rely on the services provided by the MNO(s) they partner with.
  • Licensing: MNOs hold licenses to operate specific radio frequencies and provide mobile services directly. MVNOs do not require their own licenses since they lease network capacity from MNOs.
  • Branding and Customer Relationship: MNOs have a direct relationship with their customers and build their brand identity. MVNOs operate under their own brand, but the customer relationship is usually managed by the MVNO, while the MNO provides the network services in the background.
  • Market Position: MNOs are typically larger and more established companies, while MVNOs often enter the market as smaller players with a focus on specific target segments or niche markets.