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What is the difference between a Mobile and a Virtual Mobile Phone Network?

What is the difference between a Mobile and a Virtual Mobile Phone Network?

I guess to answer the question we need to highlight some technical jargon that you may see around and maybe don’t really understand. What is a Mobile Network Operator (MNO) and what is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO)?

A mobile network owns the aerials, infrastructure and has a license from the Government to operate in the UK, there are only 4 MNO in the UK listed below.  An MVNO buys airtime (mins text and data ) from an MNO and the sells it on repackaged to you, the consumer. Therefore an MVNO is really only a marketing and billing business, Virgin being the biggest and oldest MVNO in the UK. Simple really!  What the MVNO charges you, the consumer is entirely up to them, they are in the business of making a profit so be certain that they have worked out the maths correctly, to allow them to offer the deals they do. Take a look at the best mobile phone deals here.

Who has the best signal?

An MVNO uses the same network as an MNO therefore a Virgin signal will be exactly the same as an EE signal and so on. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different it is simply untrue, although this is difficult to verify due to other variables. What is checkable  is what bandwidth each network has  you can check this here.

What is bandwidth? If you think of it like a big motorway that allows access to the airwaves it is maybe easier to understand, EE has the biggest motorway, followed by Vodafone, O2, Three and then BT  ( BT owns EE as well).  Bandwidth is nothing to do with coverage, coverage is determined by number of transmitters, the make up of the landscape and other factors. However the biggest network has the potential to have the most customers and still have these customers access services when they need to.

Network MVNO
EE ASDA Mobile, BT Mobile, The Phone Coop, Virgin Mobile

Axis Mobile, Natterbox, Plusnet Mobile, Vectone Mobile (now also owns Delight Mobile)

O2 Giffgaff*, Tesco Mobile, Sky Mobile LycaMobile, TalkTalk Mobile
Three iD Mobile, The People’s Operator Globalgig
Vodafone Talk Mobile  Cortel Telephone, Glemnet, Highnet, Lebara Mobile, Ownfone, Zest4 Mobile

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