Discussion Papers

Wolfgang Kiesewetter

Mobile Virtual Network Operators – Ökonomische Perspektiven und regulatorische Probleme
Nr. 233 / März 2002


Many companies, which do not own a mobile licence to run a mobile access network, seeking to participate on the returns in the highly profitable mobile market. To break successfully the mobile market these companies develop new strategies. Many of them try to get access to the mobile networks as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). Compared with traditional Service Providers MVNOs are not so dependent on the infrastructure of a licensed mobile network operator. Because of possessing some mobile network infrastructure MVNOs has some opportunity to develop some new services for their customers. At the moment exists no unique definition of a mobile virtual network operator, whether in the literature nor in the telecommunication laws of the most European countries. The aim of this discussion paper is to work out a definition of a MVNO and what this MVNO could do. In a next step this MVNO will be filed to the spectrum of Providers of mobile Services, whether they have an own licensed frequency spectrum or not. The main criteria for this classification is the dependence on the infrastructure of licensed mobile network operators. This dependence in infrastructure determines the opportunity to develop products or services by their own.

Further it will be discuss for which kind of companies it will be a favourable strategy to enter the mobile market as a MVNO. This includes also some case studies from companies which has some experience as MVNO or had some problems to get access to the mobile networks as an MVNO. This strategies differentiate between the GSM an the UMTS Standards. Within a economical analysis the pros and cons of MVNOs for the development of competition will be addressed. Another point that will be discuss is the necessity of regulatory intervention regarding the promotion of MVNOs. In this context the rights for access to the mobile networks and the number space will be the main targets.

The study finishes with an overview about the situation of MVNOs in the western European countries. This overview includes the regulatory situation and a description of agreements between mobile network operators an MVNOs. [only a german version available]

Diskussion Paper is available for download.

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