We all learned in 2021 that the COVID-19 pandemic had heightened consumers’ expectations for digital services. That has expedited new and improved network technologies that enhance mobile behaviors and values.
Customers demand more network speed, reliability, and unlimited data for teleworking, gaming, streaming content, and all their wireless devices.
The mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) are leading the way to improve lives and societies by delivering enhanced mobile services.
MVNOs are addressing the gap in providing all market segments with value propositions. Going above and beyond in embracing innovation and transformative technologies like e-SIM, Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) and Software Defined Networks (SDN), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and edge computing. At the same time, 5G is bound to enable a new generation of MVNOs to offer opportunities for businesses.
There are more mobile phone providers on the market than you can imagine. However, not all providers are the same. You’re undoubtedly familiar with the big four EE, O2, Vodafone, and Three, but they’re only a tiny fraction of the UK-based options. Carriers like Talk Home, Google Fi, VOXI, Sky Mobile, and giffgaff are MVNOs. But what are MVNOs, and how can they benefit you? Let’s explore the world of MVNOs.
What is an MVNO?
A mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is a mobile operator that does not own a spectrum or have its network infrastructure. Essentially, it’s a fancy way of describing a small operator paying one of the big network operators to offer the service to specific segments.
An MVNO has commercial agreements with traditional mobile network operators to buy network time at a wholesale rate, which it then sells to its customers.
MVNOs operate independently of mobile network operators (MNOs) and can set their own pricing structure subject to the fees they have agreed to pay the MNOs. MVNOs do not have any core infrastructure related to the mobile network, such as radio access networks or mobile switching centres.
These examples also highlight the fact that many MVNOs rely on a single network for their service, but a few special cases give you a choice between networks. For example, Google Fi regularly switches between T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular to get the strongest signal available.
Some advantages come with smaller carriers, but some drawbacks need to be considered.
Pros of Switching to an MVNO
Broadly there are very few differences between an MVNO and the top mobile network providers. As these smaller networks use their networks, they offer the same speeds, coverage, and connections as the major providers.
There are many benefits that an MVNO can bring to much larger cell service. The first is the price which is a significant factor. Similarly, the rise in the phenomenon called “handset fatigue” has put SIM-Only deals an optimal choice for many users.
MVNOs can customise its product to serve a very different market segment.
MVNOs are unique in that they can cater to the emerging market behaviours and values and adapt and pivot service offerings to fulfil new user demands. With no obligation to maintain telecom networks and infrastructure like the parent mobile network operator (MNO), MVNOs are free to focus their time and efforts on enhancing customer experience.
MVNOs are more flexible and affordable than the big players in the network industry. Though you might see some restrictions, overall, they offer greater flexibility and often cheaper costs. MVNOs cost far less and target the no-contract prepaid market. That makes switching carriers easier and getting the best service at the best prices available.
You don’t have to go through lengthy credit checks. You can enjoy no-credit and no-contract SIM-Only and Pay as You Go (PAYG) deals at a much cheaper rate.
Similarly, some carriers, like Talk Home, offer unique plans that lower the costs with valuable incentives that you can enjoy for more extended periods. MVNO customers benefit from cheaper monthly bills. Because MVNOs don’t have to run their own network, they can charge you much less for your wireless service. Companies like Talk Home, giffgaff and Sky Mobile have incredibly affordable plans compared to their parent companies.
On top of this, MVNOs often offer additional benefits and promotions to stand out in a crowded market. This can mean hotspot data, price promotions, or even giveaways. So, users can benefit from various promotions and offers offered by MVNOs.
Cons of Going for an MVNO
Unfortunately, the fact that MVNOs get into other networks can be one of the biggest problems. It is beneficial in terms of cost, but when the host operator is under stress, the MVNO can suffer. EE’s first obligation is to its direct customers, so it may be deprived of priority until the load lightens.
Also, you may not get as much national coverage with an MVNO. This is because not all carriers are subject to the same roaming agreements, so your connectivity can suffer. They can also have a limited number of plans and phones they can offer, unlike the ones offered by key network providers.
Which MVNO to choose from in the UK
There is no clear-cut answer here as the answer depends on what you are looking for. All the major carriers (EE, Vodafone, Three, and O2) have great setups, so you can’t go wrong with an MVNO on any of them.
It will come down to the type of plan you’re looking for and which MVNO offers the best service in your area. When it comes to pricing, Talk Home Mobile and VOXI offer excellent budget plans despite using different carriers’ networks.
Let’s explore through some of the tops, and best MVNOs you can opt for in the United Kingdom are:
- Talk Home Mobile – by far the UK’s best and oldest MVNOs, running on EE’s extensive network and offers a wide range of cheap SIM-Only deals, PAYG deals, and roaming plans to keep you connected to the remotest locations worldwide
- Google Fi – most innovative as it uses three different networks, Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S cellular, to use the best coverage from any one of these networks
- VOXI – it’s a Vodafone-owned network and uses the same network to offer unlimited data for social media
- Sky Mobile – running on the O2 network, Sky Mobile provides deals on Samsung, iPhone and more phones with the ability to store the unused data and roll over it to the next month
- Giffgaff – one of the UK’s biggest MVNO’s, it runs on the O2 network and provides flexible mobile deals
MVNOs give you the same service as MNOs but with added benefits at a much lower price. They’re better in terms of connecting people, making phone calls, using the internet for teleworking with unlimited data, and text messages for quick communication. The mobile deals you can enjoy from an MVNO are often reliable and cheapest smartphone deals with or without a new handset.
While going for an MVNO that uses EE will provide top-of-the-line speeds, reliability, and excellent coverage throughout the UK. It’s also better to focus on the features of the MVNO instead of its parent company.