A MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator – companies like Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, and Cricket Wireless) operates like an MNO (mobile network operator – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon) but without a RAN (radio access network). Basically, MVNOs buy access to MNOs’ network services at a wholesale price, and sell the service as their own at retail prices. There are typically specialized service offerings under the MVNO’s name (such as different billing methods, or different phones, or some kind of vertical segment specialization), and if the MVNO does some kind of specialization, they would have their own equipment.
Dialogic has many MVNOs as customers as they have purchased various Dialogic NGN/IMS equipment to enable what they are doing. When this occurs, like anywhere else that a network buildout occurs, there are significant upfront costs.
When the world starts to move to NFV, there will clearly still be MVNOs. I believe there will be more MVNO opportunities actually. Virtual Network Functions (VNF) can be utilized and brought into the picture much easier than before. And since VNFs are software and cloud-based, there would be significantly less upfront costs (theoretically), so there should be more experimentation, and thus more innovation in this NFV MVNO world.
So if the service offer became successful, then more instances of the required VNFs could be spun up. If the service wasn’t successful, then simply could be spun down. Service agility and innovation could be targeted to different areas.
We should even see Internet of Things (IoT) based MVNOs that are super specialized for specific IoT offerings. I’ve written about what IoT service providers would do, and will write more on IoT in the future, so stay tuned.