What is an MVNO?

You may see the term MVNO written here or elsewhere. This means a Mobile Virtual Operator.

It’s easier to explain it by using some examples.

Who provides mobile coverage in the UK?

There are four actual mobile networks in the UK:

  • O2
  • EE
  • Three
  • Vodafone

These companies actually build and own their own physical mobile phone network including things such as the mobile phone masts you see dotted around the country.


What other mobile providers are there?

There are many other mobile providers in the UK who don’t own their own physical mobile networks, they instead rent coverage from one or more of the four actual networks (EE, O2, Three & Vodafone). They are known as virtual network operators

Examples of well known virtual network operators are:

  • Asda Mobile – use Vodafone’s network
  • BT – use EE’s network
  • CMLink – use EE’s network
  • Ecotalk – use EE’s network
  • Extremeconnect – use EE’s network
  • FreedomPop – use Three’s network
  • Giffgaff – use O2’s network
  • iD Mobile – use Three’s network
  • Jump – use EE, O2, Three and Vodafone’s networks
  • KC Mobile – use O2’s network
  • Lebara – use Vodafone’s network
  • Lycamobile – use O2’s network
  • Now PAYG – use EE’s network
  • Plusnet Mobile – use EE’s network
  • SMARTY – use Three’s network
  • Sky Mobile – use O2’s network
  • Superdrug – use Three’s network
  • TalkTalk Mobile – use O2’s network (TalkTalk mobile no longer sells its own deals, but refers its customers to O2 directly)
  • Tesco Mobile – use O2’s network
  • T-Mobile – use EE’s network
  • Talkmobile – use Vodafone’s network
  • The Phone Co-op – use EE’s network
  • Truphone – use O2’s network
  • Utility Warehouse – TelecomPlus – use EE’s network
  • Virgin Mobile – use EE’s and Vodafone’s networks. Following the merger of Virgin Media and O2 in 2021 Virgin Mobile customers will be moved over to O2’s network in the near future.
  • Voxi – use Vodafone’s network