Virtual telephone operators: what they are, what they are and comparison with other operators

The virtual mobile operators (Mobile Virtual Network OperatorMVNO) provide cellular telephone service without owning the physical infrastructure and broadcast licenses through certain radio frequencies. While the large operators we have in Italy (mainly Tim, Vodafone, Wind-Three And Iliad) have ownership over the antennas, repeaters and the authorization to use the frequencies of the cellular network, virtual operators (such as I have mobile, Mobile post office, Coop Voce And Kena mobile) they rent all this to provide its services. This entails lower costs for the user but also some compromises in terms of performance and services.

What are virtual telephone operators

Like many other realities, telecommunications management also has more than just aspects techniciansbut also commercial. Competition laws, in fact, require telephone operators to make infrastructure and frequencies available to smaller operators that they cannot face high costs for the installation of own telephone antennas and for transmission licenses.

We therefore have two types of managers:

  1. The MNO (Mobile Network Operator), like Tim and Vodafone, which own the infrastructure and licenses;
  2. The MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), i.e. the virtual telephone operatorswhich do not have the infrastructure and licenses to broadcast and operate them they rent from MNOs.

In fact, not all operators can afford to have their own network of antennas or purchase a license to broadcast. All this is fundamental because without antennas mobile telephony would be impossible: the antennas are the means that allow our smartphones to be recognized by the operator based on its SIM card physical or electronic and put yourself in communicationthrough the radio waves, with the telephone service provider. Virtual telephone operators therefore rely on the network provided by the primary operators.


What are the virtual operators in Italy: some examples

Examples of MNO I am:

  1. Tim;
  2. Vodafone;
  3. Wind-Three;
  4. Fastweb;
  5. Iliad;
  6. RFI (the Railways also have their own communication infrastructure reserved for their own technical operational purposes).

Among MVNO the most famous we have:

  1. Kena mobile (operated by Tim);
  2. I have mobile (operated by Vodafone);
  3. Very mobile (operated by Wind-Tre);
  4. Mobile post office (operated by Vodafone);
  5. Coop voice (operated by Tim).


Virtual operators and primary operators: the differences

Since they derive their functionality from their bigger brothers, they have some limitations: it is normal that, given lower prices, one has to accept some compromiseas the coverage network (depending on the frequency and power used), from technology (4G or 5G), breadth of dedicated bandwidth (virtual operators often travel “slower” than their primary services) or functionality: for example, not all MVNOs have the ability to issue eSIMs or provide advanced services such as wifi calling.