Extracted from Chapter 9 of the Telecom 101 reference book. Note: acronyms and abbreviations used below are explained in lessons leading up to this one.
9.7 Mobile Operators, MVNOs and Roaming
9.7.1 Mobile Network Operator
Mobile Network Operator (MNO) is the term
usually used to refer to a facilities-based carrier, i.e. a company that owns
base stations, a mobile switch, backhaul between them, and spectrum licenses,
and sells services to the public… and to other carriers.
The MNO implements external links to other
carriers for PSTN phone calls and for Internet traffic.
For PSTN phone calls, the MNO implements a
fiber optic connection to a building traditionally called a Toll Center or
Class 4 switching office. The termination of their fiber in that building is
called a POP. It is their physical point of presence in the building.
Many other carriers have POPs in the
building, including the ILEC, IXCs, CATV companies, other mobile carriers, and
any other company that wants to connect phone calls to a phone on the MNO’s
The operator of the toll center, usually the
ILEC, provides a switch in the Toll Center to switch phone calls from one
carrier’s POP to a different carrier’s POP.
For Internet access, the MNO implements a
fiber optic connection to one or more Internet Exchange buildings, where they
pay the operator of the IX to route packets to other carriers with whom the MNO
has established IP packet transit and peering arrangements.
9.7.2 Mobile Virtual Network Operator
Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) is the
term used to refer to a non-facilities-based carrier… one that does not own
the hardware or spectrum licenses or POPs.
Instead, the MVNO enters into a long-term
contract with one or more facilities-based carriers to have them supply a
“white label” service that the MVNO sells.
Typically the MVNO will develop a unique
branding and sell smartphones and tablets to go along with its service.
When the MVNO deals exclusively with one
carrier, the MVNO bill to the customer would be typically generated by the
facilities-based carrier as a white-label service.
If the MVNO is very large and deals with
multiple carriers, the MVNO may operate their own billing system, which is a
The facilities-based carrier charges to the
MVNO includes a volume-discount rate for IP addresses and Internet traffic,
voice-minute airtime and switched access to the POP for PSTN phone calls.
The MVNO also has to pay for connectivity
from the POP to other toll centers for “long-distance” connections,
and the switched-access charge at the far end.
The rate plan the MVNO pays could be a mix of
fixed-rate leases and usage-based billing.
Unless the MNO is obliged to sell capacity to
MVNOs through regulations and tariffs, the nature of the plan is confidential
Roaming service is very similar to the
service provided to MVNOs, in that it is the MNO that is providing the airlink,
base stations, backhaul, mobile switch and connections to the PSTN and
In the case of roaming, the visitor uses
their own phone, and billing is usage-based.
Roaming is an important feature for smaller
players: they are facilities-based in selected cities, but to offer a national
and international service to their customers, they must have roaming agreements
in place with MNOs in other locations.
By denying roaming service to smaller or
startup carriers, or charging an exorbitant price for roaming, an incumbent
carrier can erect a barrier against competition.
In many countries, the right to roam and the
wholesale cost of roaming is regulated to encourage competition.
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BOOT CAMP Live Online Instructor-Led Training Request
I need to get training on telecom to do my job effectively, and to that end, I would like to request permission to register for Teracom Training Institute’s Live Online telecom BOOT CAMP seminar the week of May 3-7.
Teracom Training Institute specializes in telecommunications training for non-engineering professionals, which is exactly what I need.
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The Internet connection at your office dies. Lights on your modem are flashing in a strange pattern. You call the ISP, and they quickly diagnose that the modem power supply has failed, and they will overnight you a replacement. Presumably you are not the first person to have this problem with that modem.
So how do you continue to operate while you are waiting for the replacement power supply? It’s hard to run your business without e-mail and ordering and administration systems, which are all accessed via the Internet.
If you want availability, you need two connections to the Internet, so if one fails you are not out of business. We go over this in the lesson “Mature Competitive Carrier Network: Regional Rings, POPs and MANs”, slide 3.17 of Course 101, Telecom Datacom and Networking for Non-Engineers, and mention it in pretty much every other course.
A large business will be a station on a Metropolitan Area Network, which is a ring, meaning two connections to the Internet for that business and automatic reconfiguration in the case of one failing. But this is expensive… the second connection is not free.
Small and medium businesses usually have a single DSL or cable modem connection to the Internet. When that fails, connectivity to email, ordering and administration servers is impossible, and many businesses these days would be “dead in the water” until the ISP fixes the problem with their hardware.
Unless you have an Android smartphone, a good “data” plan and a laptop with WiFi running Windows.
The scenario described happened at our office last week. Since many of our customers might find themselves in a similar situation – even at home – I thought I’d share the quick and painless solution I came up with. Even if you’re not likely to need this solution, understanding how it works will no doubt sharpen your understanding of the devices involved and their functions.
In this tutorial, I will use the technology in our office: 50 Mb/s DSL, Android smartphone and Windows laptop. The solution is equally applicable to an Internet connection using a cable modem or if you are one of the lucky few, an Internet connection via fiber.
For the smartphone and laptop, there may be equivalent functions on Apple products, but as I am allergic to Apples, we don’t have any in the office. I’m posting this tutorial on our our Facebook page,our GoogleMyBusiness page, or our blog; I invite someone better able to tolerate Apple products to leave a comment whether and how the iPhone and MacBook can perform the required functions.
The diagram above illustrates the normal network setup in our office, a typical configuration for networking at a small or medium business. On the left is the access circuit to the Internet Service Provider (ISP), terminating on a modem in our office.
The modem is contained in a box that also includes a computer and an Ethernet switch. This box is more properly called the Customer Edge (CE). The computer in the CE runs many different computer programs performing various functions: Stateful Packet Inspection firewall, DHCP server offering private IP addresses to the computers in-building, DHCP client obtaining a public IP address from the ISP, a Network Address Translation function between the two, routing, port forwarding and more.
In-building is a collection of desktop computers, servers and network printers. These are connected with Category 5e LAN cables to Gigabit Ethernet LAN switches, one of which is also connected to the CE.
When a desktop computer is restarted, its DHCP client obtains a private IP address and Domain Name Server (DNS) address from the DHCP server in the CE. The private address of the CE is configured as the “default gateway” for the desktop by Windows.
When a desktop computer wants to communicate with a server over the Internet, it looks up the server’s numeric IP address via the DNS, then creates a packet from the desktop to the Internet server and transmits it to its default gateway, the CE. The NAT function in the CE changes the addresses on the packet to be from the CE to the Internet server and forwards the packet to the ISP via the modem and access circuit. The response from the Internet server is relayed to the CE, where the NAT changes the destination address on the return packet to be the desktop’s private address and relays it to the desktop.
The solution for restoring Internet access after the CE died is illustrated below.
An Android smartphone and a laptop running Windows were used to restore connectivity to the Internet without making any changes to the desktops, servers or network printers.
First, I took my Samsung/Google Nexus smartphone running Android out of my pocket and plugged in the charger. Then on its menu under Settings > more > Tethering & portable hotspot > Set up Wi-Fi hotspot, I entered a Network SSID (“TERACOM”) and a password, clicked Save, then clicked Portable Wi-Fi hotspot to turn it on. The smartphone is now acting as a wireless LAN Access Point, just like any other WiFi AP at Starbucks, in the airport or in your home.
At this point, the smartphone is the CE device, performing all of the same functions that the DSL CE device had been before it died: firewall, DHCP client to get a public IP address from the ISP (now via cellular), DHCP server to assign private IP addresses to any clients that wanted to connect (now via WiFi), NAT to translate between the two and router to forward packets.
Just as the DSL CE equipment “bridged” or connected the DSL modem on the ISP side to the Ethernet LAN in-building, allowing all the devices on the LAN to send and receive packets to/from the Internet via DSL, the smartphone “bridges” or connects the cellular modem on the ISP side to the WiFi wireless Ethernet LAN in-building, allowing all the devices on the wireless LAN to send and receive packets to/from the Internet via cellular radio.
The remaining problem was that none of the desktops or servers had wireless LAN cards in them, so they could not connect to the smartphone AP and hence the smartphone’s cellular Internet connection.
What was needed was a device to “bridge” or connect the wired LAN to the wireless LAN in-building. By definition, this device would need two LAN interfaces: a physical Ethernet jack to plug into the wired LAN, plus a wireless LAN capability. Looking around the office, I spotted two devices that fit this description. One of them was my laptop, with both a LAN jack and wireless LAN.
I fired up the laptop, plugged it into an Ethernet switch with a LAN cable, and in the Network and Sharing Center, clicked Change Adapter Settings to get to the Network Connections screen that showed the two LAN interfaces.
I enabled both the wired and wireless LAN interfaces. Then right-clicking the Wireless Network Connection icon, selected the TERACOM wireless network and entered the password.
Once that was successfully connected, I selected the two adapters in the Network Connections screen, right-clicked and chose “Bridge Connections”. A message saying “Please wait while Windows bridges the connections” appeared, then an icon called “Network Bridge” appeared, and after a few seconds, “TERACOM” appeared as well.
My laptop was now acting as an Ethernet switch, connecting the wired LAN to the smartphone’s wireless LAN.
Each of the desktops, servers and network printers in the office had to be rebooted so they would run their DHCP client again, obtaining a private IP address and DNS address from the smartphone AP, and be configured so the smartphone was the “default gateway” in Windows.
After rebooting my desktop computer, it had Internet access over the wired LAN, through the wired Ethernet switch to my laptop, to the smartphone via WiFi then to the ISP over cellular. After rebooting the other desktops and servers, all had Internet access again, with no changes to the configuration of the desktops or servers.
This took about 20 minutes to get up and running, and we were back in business. Running a bandwidth test on speedtest.net, I found we had exactly 5 Mb/s connection to the Internet via cellular. Obviously my cellular service provider limited the connection to 5 Mb/s in software – but who’s complaining? 5 Mb/s is more than three times as fast as a T1, which cost $20,000 per month when I first started in this business 20 years ago.
I hope you found this tutorial useful, either as a template for your own emergency backup Internet connection, or simply as a way of better understanding the devices, their functions and relationships. — EC
Note 1: You must verify your billing plan for “data” on your cellular contract before doing this. I have 40 GB included, which means basically unlimited, and that includes the WiFi hotspot traffic. Make sure you have something similar, to avoid receiving a bill for $10,000 for casual “data” usage.
Note 2: As always, this tutorial is provided as general background information only. We do not guarantee it will work for you. Each situation is unique and requires professional advice to identify and resolve issues including but not limited to performance and security. This tutorial is not professional advice. But I hope you have found it valuable.
Note 3: I might have been able to implement this without the laptop. If you’d like to know that, or what was the other device I could have used to bridge the wired and wireless LAN in-building, or suggest how this could be done with Apple products, please leave a comment on our Facebook page,our GoogleMyBusiness page, or our blog.
BOOT CAMP is running strong during the pandemic Live Online!
All you need to join BOOT CAMP Live Online and get this
world-famous training is Internet, a laptop with a webcam and Zoom.
We’ll ship you the high-quality printed color course books in advance of the BOOT CAMP, and you’ll be part of a class that runs 9 – 5 ET Monday – Friday.
The best part: BOOT CAMP was totally updated for 2020, with 5G,
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You will be able to see and hear everyone else.
We’ll ship you the high-quality printed color course books in advance.
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The instructor will keep you focused, so you learn, like any other BOOT CAMP.
You can ask the instructor questions, like any other BOOT CAMP.
The class will run on a schedule: 9 – 5 ET Monday to Friday, with scheduled breaks, like any other BOOT CAMP.
You get immediate access to three TCO Certification Packages, with their online courses.
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All you need is a laptop with a webcam.
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You’ll get the course materials shipped to you: two printed color
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New Course 2241 Introduction to Broadband Telecommunications along with existing Course 2221 Fundamentals of Voice over IP will be added to the CTNS Certification Package before year-end.
The price of the CTNS package will increase when the number of courses increases from six to eight. Since all existing customers will automatically get the two new courses at no additional charge, you can beat the price increase by purchasing CTNS before the upgrade and get the two new courses, when they are released, for free!