Technical MVNO solution - Interconnect and roaming agreement

Apart from the necessary roaming agreement with your MNO, you will also need a technical MVNO solution. It will include an HSS/HLR, GMSC, GGSN, PGW, and an SMSC.

You can have a roaming agreement with an MNO or/and a Roaming Hub to give you access to more subscribers or for better rates.

Further, you will learn more about MVNO solutions for interconnects and network flows. The topics covered in this page are: 

most popular MVNO architecture diagram

Full MVNO Core Network Architecture

The full MVNO Core Network would look like the following diagrams and it is called the Home Network. You will use the RAN of the MNO you interconnect with.

  • Authentication and Registration
    ✔ GSM - VLR to HLR
    ✔ GPRS - SGSN to HLR
    ✔ LTE - MME to HSS
  • Voice sessions
    ✔ GSM - MSC to GMSC
  • Data Sessions
    ✔ GPRS - SGSN to GGSN
    ✔ LTE - SGW to PGW

MVNO - MNO and Roaming Hub interconnect

First of all, the MVNO needs an interconnection with a Mobile Network Operator for using their Radio Access Network.
The other interconnect has to be with a roaming hub because the MVNO would need to have his subscribers roaming in a lot of networks all over the world.

1. Interconnect with an MNO

  • 1.
    High-speed data sessions - 4G/5G
    ✔ The high-speed data interconnect is used for VoLTE and data sessions.
    ✔ The data interconnect has to be open all the subscribers out there, so your PGW must be available to receive subscribers from any network.
  • 2.
    Voice and low-speed data sessions - 2G/3G
    ✔ In the next few years, this kind of interconnect will be outdated. All operators will have to shut down their old generation networks and rely only on LTE and 5G. The MVNO interconnections will only be for high-speed data sessions.
  • ✔ The duration of an interconnect is based on multiple factors. There could be technical or business issues that would make the interconnect take longer than expected. The shortest one we implemented took us 2 months and the longest one took 1 year.
    ✔ The requirements of the MNO you’re interconnecting to have a strong word on how long it will take to deploy your business.
  • ✔ The cost of interconnection depends on a lot of factors like the business agreement, the country, the expected traffic and the number of sessions. Sometimes the interconnection is charged before the network is deployed, so you need to be prepared with the funds before you delve into the technical part of interconnection. Depending on the business model you’re aiming for, the interconnect costs could vary.

2. Interconnect with Roaming Hubs

A Roaming Hub can make things a lot easier for you and is a good MVNO solution for you because you have one agreement instead of thousands of roaming agreements with operators worldwide.

  • Roaming Agreements
    ✔ A Roaming Hub has agreements with all kinds of operators all over the world. This way you don’t have to worry about the Global Titles and Diameter hosts of all the operators, because the Roaming Hub takes care of this.
  • Data Clearing-House function
    ✔ Sometimes a Roaming Hub can provide the Data Clearing-House function. This means it could generate Call Detail Records (CDRs) and from all the operators and attaches a price for each record.
  • Proxy services
    ✔ Some of the Roaming Hubs can also provide Proxy services for the high-speed data sessions. It can make sure your PGW is available to receive subscribers in roaming.

Types of interconnect problems

  • ✔ Technical methods to assure the business model: Most of the MVNOs that don’t have a clear business model encounter problems when they are trying to interconnect with the MNO because they don’t have a business model: what kind of services they wish to provide and whom they’re going to provide them for.
  • Billing solution
    ✔ MVNOs must have a billing platform that will collect money from subscribers. Most of the MVNOs practice pre-paid systems and this means you might need an Online Charging System.
    ✔ The other part of billing is the one between the operators - the roaming billing and the interconnect billing (the price of routing sessions) based on Call Detail Records - Offline Charging System.
  • IP routing - IPV4
    ✔ MNOs require public IP addresses. (For a regular interconnect an MVNO needs at least 64 IP addresses) These IP addresses are difficult to obtain and you need a lot of resources to get them.
    ✔ Multi-homing - each of the connections uses multiple IP addresses paired with each other.
  • Coordinating the technical teams
    ✔ The technical teams of both operators must be aligned to work together. There are specialized teams that work for an interconnect.
    ✔ A full MVNO needs special technical engineers that are trained to solve the technical problems

Yate-based MVNO solution - Core Network

  • YateUCN
    ✔ A unified GSM and LTE Core Network that implements in software the functions of GMSC, GGSN and PGW
    ✔ YateUCN uses the HLR to locate the MSC/VLR of the called subscriber and routes the call to the designated MSC/VLR in the MNO network.
    ✔ It establishes and maintains the IP sessions of the subscriber and routes the IP packets to the SGSN in the MNO network.
  • YateHSS
    ✔ A software implemented product that provides the functionalities of LTE HSS and GSM HLR.
    ✔ You can use this product for both Circuit-switching and Packet-switching, so your subscribers can roam from a 4G network to a 2G/3G network and back.
  • YateSMSC
    ✔ A SMSC with the functions of receiving, forwarding, storing and delivering SMSs in GSM, UMTS, LTE or custom networks.
    ✔ Uses standard SS7/MAP and SMPP interfaces.
    ✔ USSD services are included in YateSMSC.

Types of tests to validate the interconnect

When deploying a full MVNO network you need to test every technical aspect ahead. For every service package there are multiple scenarios that need to be tested.

VoLTE Lab is a complete test suite for Voice-over-LTE, that includes the LTE LabKit, the MiniCore and two iPhone 6s. It is fully configured and intended for use as a VoLTE test bed and learning environment. With VoLTE Lab you can have a deep view into the internals of VoLTE technology, with Wireshark.

  • ✔ Calls - the duration and number of calls
    ✔ SMSs
    ✔ Data Sessions
  • ✔ You need at least 10 testing SIMs for MNO, MVNO, vendor
  • Roaming
    ✔ How are the services working when roaming
    ✔ The average timeline of authentication when roaming
  • Billing platform
    ✔ If the charging system works appropriately
  • Testing in the operator’s own radio network
    ✔ Getting experience before entering the tests with the MNO