An amazing thing about MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) is that in spite of all their good work (like providing mobile services at cheaper cost to the poor); there is no way to define them. The responsibility and the processes undertaken by an MVNO greatly vary from one and another. In order to better understand MVNO concept, they are divided into light MVNO and full MVNO. This demarcation is not absolute in any sense; however, the dividing line that separates them comes in the form of HLR (Home Location Register) for 2G/3G and HSS (Home Subscriber Server) for 4G. While a full MVNO has its own HLR, a light MVNO does not.
Importance of MVNOs for an MNO
In the recent past, MVNOs have become an essential part of the telecom industry. They associate with an MNO (Mobile Network Operator), procure their resources like voice minutes, mobile network data etc. at a cheaper rate and then offer them under their own brand to subscribers. As an MVNO operates in the same region as its parent MNO, it serves as a new revenue stream for the MNO.
The Need for HLR/HSS
An HLR (Home Location Register) is a database that contains essential subscriber information. The information stored in HLR is permanent. HLR has been used with GSM, TDMA and CDMA networks e.g. 2G and 3G. Just like HLR, HSS (Home Subscriber Server) stores permanent information but it works in LTE environment.
HLR performs the following tasks:
1. Stores information like subscriber ID, status of subscriber, current subscriber VLR, authentication key and mobile subscriber roaming number
2. Allows MSC and VLR to fetch the data
The HSS has functions similar to HLR but it performs them for 4G networks. It can be considered as a superior version of HLR and it is used by both MNO and MVNO.
How a Light MVNO Works?
A light MVNO does not have an HLR and focuses specifically on customer relations, marketing and billing. It has a direct link with MNO when it comes to tracking subscribers and enters all the vital customer details in the computer of host operator. After a billing cycle is complete, the MVNO retrieves the information from the MNO’s HLR and sends the invoices to its subscribers. This mode of operation does not require an MVNO to have its own HLR. Some of the advantages of not having an HLR are listed below:
1. More time to focus on branding tasks – As a light MVNO does not burden itself with managing HLR, it gets more time to focus on branding. This helps it in creating a good image, which further helps it in increasing its customer base.
2. Additional funds for buying quality MVNO billing solutions – The money saved from not investing in an HLR can be used to buy better MVNO billing solutions. With better and more transparent billing, an MVNO is able to perform a lot better.