People have been asking me for my thoughts about service architectures and MVNOs, so I decided to put some stuff together. This is just an overview so please feel free to e-mail me if you want to know more.
A Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) is a mobile operator that does not own its own spectrum and usually does not have its own network infrastructure. Instead, MVNO's have business arrangements with traditional mobile operators to buy minutes of use (MOU) for sale to their own customers. MVNO's typically add value such as brand appeal, distribution channels, and other affinities to the resale of mobile services.
MVNO's have full control over the SIM card, branding, marketing, billing, and customer care operations. The major benefit to traditional mobile operators cooperating with MVNO's is to broaden the customer base (sell additional MOU's) at a zero cost of acquisition. It is likely that incumbent mobile operators will continue to embrace MVNO's as a means of deriving revenue to offset the enormous cost of building 3G networks.
Most regulating bodies are in favor of MVNO's as a means of encouraging competition, which would ultimately lead to greater choice and lower prices. With the advent of the MVNO, many incumbent mobile operators will evaluate the opportunity to offer supplementary MVNO services of their own. To do so, exiting mobile operators will use their established branding, service knowledge, and supplier relationships to complete against independent MVNO's.
See My Research : Overlay Networks (Tapestry Project)