We are often asked the question: Is Aeris a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (“MVNO”)?
Let’s understand the acronym, how it applies, and look at some companies who are MVNO’s, to understand the answer to that question.
What is an MVNO?
So, what is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator or MVNO anyway?
First, “Mobile” is pretty clear. Companies who are MVNOs are conducting business in the mobile cellular industry. They offer devices such as phones, tablets, data cards, etc., to customers who need cellular service for voice and data.
Next, “Virtual” is the main distinction between an MVNO and a Mobile Network Operator (i.e., “MNO”)—more commonly known as a Carrier or Operator. An MVNO may look like an MNO to their customers, but MVNO's do not own or operate the actual network infrastructure to provide their services. This “Virtual” infrastructure is also where it gets messy for an MVNO, as its underlying Carrier's billing and business rules may not align—causing an exponential rise in difficulty when trying to resolve a support request.
Finally, “Network Operator” represents the same usage as in the term MNO. I.e., an MVNO offers the same kind of cellular phone services (voice and data) as a Carrier (just under a different brand name).
In short, an MVNO offers an MNO’s (Carrier) cellular voice, SMS and data services to their own customers through a contractual agreement. These services are then rebranded under the MVNO’s name and the customer does business (service, support, bills, etc.) with the MVNO, not the underlying Carrier.
MVNO Can be Different from Reseller
An MVNO can be different from the older term “Reseller” in one important way: although the business, contractual and operational arrangements are very much the same, Resellers do not use their own brand name for the services offered to the Customers.
As a Reseller example, more than two decades ago, well before the Carriers ran their own local stores, I went to a company in the San Jose area (“Peacock Cellular” in San Jose, as I recall) to get my phone and cellular service set up.
This was a true Reseller business deal—Peacock Cellular sold me a phone and service on GTE Mobilnet (now part of Verizon Wireless). My cell-phone bills came from GTE Mobilnet … not Peacock Cellular!
Effectively, Peacock Cellular was an agent of GTE Mobilnet—reselling the services of that underlying Carrier, without rebranding those services in any way.
The Underlying Network
Since an MVNO is providing service using somebody else’s network, under a contracted agreement, there is no need for them to deploy any infrastructure elements for that network.
Thus, the networks, the systems, the connectivity, the numbers in the phone, etc., are generally owned and operated by the underlying Carrier.
In many cases, the Carriers also provide the cellular handsets that are sold by the MVNO, although this is an area where the larger MVNOs can provide a degree of separation from the underlying Carrier, via handset and service branding, and/or unique differentiation in the handsets themselves.
Most importantly, because the network is owned by the Carrier, the MVNO performance will always be the same as the performance of the underlying Carrier. Of course, this is true only as long as the Carrier does not limit the MVNO any further through specific contractual limitations (for example, reduced market and service areas, International dialing blocks, service data plans, pre-paid only services, etc.)
- Is a mobile service operator that provides an underlying Carrier’s cellular voice, SMS and data services to its Customers.
- Markets the services under a different brand name, and possibly different billing and business rules, than the actual Carrier that owns the network.
- Does not own or operate the network infrastructure to provide those mobile cellular services.
Examples of MVNOs
I believe that the first company in the US to which the term MVNO can be correctly applied is Virgin MobileUSA. Virgin MobileUSA operates a cellular service business as an MVNO and the underlying Carrier is Sprint.
And, there are other MVNOs that have the same business model.
Not surprisingly, the list of MVNOs does change as businesses, and business arrangements, come and go.
For example, an MVNO effort by Disney was shut down as their Disney-branded cellular service simply did not catch on with their Customers, even though it had received critical and customer acclaim.
Why is Aeris Different?
Aeris Owns and Operates its CDMA Network
First and foremost, unlike an MVNO, Aeris owns and operates its network infrastructure for its CDMA M2M services. This includes all the cellular network infrastructure and service elements, as well as many other non-cellular systems and connectivity elements, in support of the CDMA M2M service.
Device number assignments are done by Aeris and stored in the systems owned and operated by Aeris—unlike MVNOs that use number assignments from the underlying Carrier, and which are stored in the Carrier network and billing systems.
Essentially, all Device presence, authentication, and operation on cellular networks are managed and controlled by Aeris network infrastructure elements in exactly the same way that a Device or handset from one Carrier operates in another carrier's footprint via roaming connections and arrangements!
Indeed, operating our own network elements allows Aeris to provide innovative and unique solutions that are just not possible from MVNOs, and even Carriers.
Aeris Does Billing From Its Own Records
The accounting and billing of Device usage traffic are all done by Aeris’s billing systems and servers.
This means that Aeris does not rely on any billing services from anywhere else, unlike an MVNO that relies on core billing services from their underlying Carrier. The accounting data fed to the Aeris billing systems are from our own billing records from our own network systems.
Because Aeris has complete control of its billing system, Aeris is unmatched in its flexibility to provide customized billing, rate plans, and business rules for its Customers—and fully support them in-house. This has allowed several Aeris Customers to start, or stay in business, which was not possible with MVNOs and other Carriers.
Direct Customer Support
Aeris directly provides support to its Business Customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Aeris is solely focused on M2M deployments with a support team that has direct visibility into how all the Devices are performing on the network. This enables Aeris to resolve Customer issues proactively at a speed that MVNOs and Carriers cannot match.
Since Aeris owns and operates our own network, the Network Support Engineers have access to systems and data that have been designed to provide extensive logging and monitoring functionality—optimized for M2M—that provide information well beyond what any other MVNO or Carrier can provide.
Access to these data and traffic tools are also available to Customers who can use the information for their own debugging and other purposes.
Additionally, the Device information (provisioning state, billing rate plans, network location, etc.) as well as the Traffic information (number of SMS messages sent, quantity of bytes used, etc.) are made available through XML/SOAP Application Programming Interfaces (“API”) and also through our human web portal called AerPort.
The Business Model
Fundamentally, Aeris is a one-stop-shop business for Customers who need IP data services, SMS, and voice for M2M Applications and Devices.
All functions and services are provided directly from Aeris, ranging from sales support, Device provisioning and activation, network operational support, assistance with Devices, etc.
This makes Aeris the easiest to work with for M2M deployments—unlike MVNOs, whose functions are confusingly split between them and the underlying Carrier. Aeris’s focus on M2M also gives us an advantage over the Carriers who focus on Consumer Devices, along with a list of other business services.
So … The Answer!
The answer to the question raised by the post tile is pretty simple: No, Aeris is not an MVNO for our CDMA Service.
Aeris can be considered a new type of CDMA Carrier, focused on M2M, with a Customer-focused approach that traditional Carriers and MVNOs just don’t provide.
Since Aeris is a Carrier directly involved in the complete M2M solution, it has the unique ability to create new, innovative solutions that are customized exactly for the Customer’s critical business needs.
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