A Mobile Network Operator (MNO), also known as a mobile network carrier, is a
provider of the infrastructure upon which mobile services are delivered. When a
mobile customer requests a mobile service this is delivered by one of the
available MNOs; be that service a phone call, SMS message or mobile data
There are four MNOs in the UK, in size of customer base order :
- EE - which is owned by BT.
- O2 - which is owned by Telephonica.
- Three which is owned by Hutchison Telecoms Group.
These four companies provide the mobile network within the UK. They purchase,
the licenses, setup the network and manage the services provided. In addition,
there are a number of Mobile Network Virtual Operators in the UK. These
organisations pigy-back on one of the four mobile network operators.
A bit of history.
- Vodafone was one of the two original operators for mobile phones in the UK and
has been in the market from the original 1G to the forthcoming 5G. Vodafone
is a company listed on the UK stock market
- The other original 1G mobile network operator was Cellnet owned and run by BT.
This was was rebranded as O2 and sold to Telefonica later when BT took the
commercial decision to move out of the mobile phone network business. O2 continues
to operate and has a 5G MNO license
- At the allocation of the 2G licences another 2 operators were allowed into
the market. One being Orange. This company operated 2G then 3G networks prior to
being merged, with T-Mobile into EE. Orange still operate under the name in various
countries in Europe.
- The other new company to come into the mobile phpne market when 2g licences
were allocated was one-to-one, who originally only operated within the M25
area. They then moved nationally, and later merged with Orange to form EE. Again
T-Mobile operate in Europe as T-Mobile
- Three, owned by Hutchison Telecom, were allocated a 3G network license as
as new operator into the market. This company has moved on from3g to 4G and now
have a 5G license
- With the allocation of 4G licenses, BT moved back into the marker when they
bought some bandwidth. In a reverse of their previous decision, they decided to
move back into the mobile phone market in a big way and took over EE to add to
their own allocaton of mobile bandwidth