Best practice

How to become a mobile operator?


Are you willing to offer mobile subscriptions to your current clients? Do you need a fleet of SIM cards for your connected objects? Your project may well require you to create a mobile operator.

Firstly, there is a big difference between providing mobile subscriptions and becoming a mobile operator. You could provide a mobile offer overnight, if you accept that this offer would not be at your brand. You simply be a reseller of an existing offer.

Nonetheless, if you want to offer a mobile subscription in your own name (and at your own pricing), it is not the same approach. To do this, you will need to become a mobile operator. Fortunately, creating a mobile operator has become very simple thanks to the model called "MVNO".


To offer a branded mobile offer, become an MVNO.

"MVNO" stands for "Mobile Virtual Network Operator". The MVNO model is a form of partnership where major operators (such as EE, O2, Orange or T-mobile) enable other companies to become operators on their network. As you will easily understand, the network of antennas is indeed the key component. Of course, the huge investment represented by a network of radio antennas is obviously the main barrier to entry into the mobile market. And it somehow kept innovators away!

However, for about fifteen years, the MVNO model has unlocked the access to the mobile network! In an MVNO model, the operator holding the antennas allows a third-party company to operate SIM cards on its network.

Since then, this model has gradually developed across Europe to foster the emergence of mobile operators of all sizes: from Virgin Mobile (with millions of subscribers in the UK) to the smallest niche operators.

To better understand the mechanism of MVNOs, see our article on the subject.


How to become an MVNO?

Most of the time, national operators (such as BT, Telefonica or Orange) have delegated the creation of MVNOs to an intermediary, like Legos. Instead of the operator itself, it is this company that will provide you with SIM cards to distribute to your customers. This company (called an MVNE – Enabler) can also allow you to be legally declared as an operator.

On your SIM cards, you will be able to credit a certain amount of calls, SMS and data. You will then set the price per SIM and the payment method (pre-paid / post-paid). In addition, your supplier will be able to support you on other topics: user interfaces, customer relationship tools, promotional tools...

A 5-step process

1- study your target:

You probably already know your target very well. However, have you already assessed its “mobile consumption”? How many calls do your customers make per month (and for how long)? How many texts? And most importantly, how much data do they consume? These elements will be crucial in calculating your average cost per subscriber.

2- study your competition:

Since you cannot compete with the big players from day one, you will have to be smarter! At the beginning, it is very likely that you will choose to position yourself on a niche market. To give you positioning ideas we have gathered a few examples in "Alt-mobile: 17 inspiring MVNOs".

Once you have identified your niche market, you will identify competors easier. Be it large or small operators, you will have to benchmark a few points: what is their range? do they have any special offers? Do these promotions involve commitment periods? Do they make bundled offers (box, content, fixed phone, collaboration tools...)?

We keep a quarterly benchmark of the French market, do not hesitate to contact us to receive it.

3 - build an offer:

From that point on, you will need an MVNE partner like Legos. This MVNE will allow you to configure your commercial offer: will it be pre-paid or post-paid? How much voice/SMS/data per subscription? Etc. In addition, this partner will help you to create your general terms and conditions, so that you avoid the pitfalls.

4 – Being declared as an operator:

Each state keeps a close eye on its radio frequencies. Governments always have an agency overseeing the use of mobile networks. It is therefore preferable to be declared as an operator to become an MVNO. You can do it in your name or via your MVNE.

5- receive your SIM cards:

Once your offer has been configured (and the declaration made), your MVNE will send you the SIM cards. You are ready to market your offer! Good luck!


Legos is an expert in creating mobile operators.

Tell us about your project or read our resources for mobile entrepreneurs.

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