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MVNO Service Quality: What Really Happens.

Started by: techmayhem
On: 26/12/2014 | 17:19
Replies: 6

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by: techmayhem
on: 26/12/2014 | 17:19 edited: 26/12/2014 | 17:21

There has long been the question of whether quality is reduced when using an MVNO or using a MNO.

I'm hoping to shed some light on the situation in this short article. 


  • MVNO - Mobile Virtual Network Operator (GiffGaff or Lebara or Tesco or Sainsbury's Mobile).
  • MNO - Mobile Network Operator (Vodafone, o2, EE/BT, 3).


  • In September, I had a 4G Handset, with a 4GG SIM, with a 4GG Goodybag in a 4G Area. RESULT: I recieved a gurranteed 3G signal throughout the whole month. 
  • Also, in september, I had another 4G Handset, with a 4G O2 SIM, on a 4G O2 Plan, in a 4G Area. RESULT: I recieved a gurranteed 4G signal throughout the whole month. 

So I dug further and was advised by o2 that even though networks 'run off their network', they simply use their towers to scatter their signal so in esscence it is more of a 'piggyback' then a full nationwide provision. If that makes sense.


I thought maybe this is just a temporary thing with GiffGaff and they will have their 4G signal up and running in no time, to my horror, I discovered that even their 3G signal is not upto the same standard of O2's.

Why? It's not GiffGaff's fault. It's just the nature of MVNOs, they can't be like MNOs, they can only buy MNO products in bulk and sell them cheap.


Don't get me wrong, I myself have been using GiffGaff since 2012, great for making a basic call or two but not up to the match of pure data freedom that other MNOs can give. It may be different in some areas, where an MVNO focuses more on because of a dense population of customers but in broader areas - you will notice a reduction in quality.


This is not just GiffGaff, other MVNO's, in this case Lebara (which runs off Vodafone's Sure Signal Network), has also a difference between itself and the MNO - Quality.


In fact, I'm going to leave you with what a Vodafone Representitive told me about MVNOs, Abz is me and Edd is the representitive:


Abz: I understand Lebara and Sainsbury's Mobile but run on Vodafone's network. They are MVNOs
Abz: My question is their a difference in call quality?
Edd: Well actually they don't. They just use the Vodafone tower to scatter their network. Moreover, regarding quality definitely Vodafone is a leading brand and we belive in providing the best services for our customers.
Edd: Does that resolve your query sir?
Abz: I understand that they use Vodafone towers to scatter their network but is it not the same quality service Vodafone provides but on a different SIM?
Abz: Is their a reduction in quality?
Edd: Well we belive that we provide the best possible services across our customers. Yes may be a little difference might be there. We completely belive in quality service and are proud to say that with the number of our valuable and happy customers across world.
Edd: I hope that resolves your query.
Abz: Is their a difference in 4G DATA quality amongst the networks who piggy-back off your network or is it the same?
Edd: There is a difference. The quality you will experience with Vodafone will be more prominent and acurate compared to other networks.
Abz: So the networks that run off Vodafone are second priority, am I right?
Edd: Yes sir.
Edd: Is there any thing else I can do for you this Christmas?
Abz Have some EggNog on me sir... Thanks for your help Smiley Happy

Message 1 of 7
by: marka2
on: 26/12/2014 | 17:25 edited: 26/12/2014 | 17:26

Would you get the same answer from perhaps a Lebara or Sainsbury's rep ?


Remember any network rep is duty bound to boost their image, and products.

Message 2 of 7
by: johnstilwell
on: 26/12/2014 | 17:26

That sounds like typical "customer service B S"

I cannot for the life of me see how any MVNO can "scatter signal about" in the hopes of providing a service, it rather defies the laws of physics.

AFAIK the transmitted signals are the same ones it just what happens once the signals reach the network ie which route they take to the they take the O2 pipe or the GiffGaff one.

It maybe that O2 have a bigger pipe so to speak and therefore suffers less congesion.

Message 3 of 7
by: natty88
on: 26/12/2014 | 17:29
my friend that happens with all mnvo networks they are allocated band width only an calls texts an data are thrown to the weaker out reach of masts sometimes may be the closest mast other times can be miles away but i my self find giffgaff coverage fine an i have been with them over one yr now only once have i had a problem but that was due to a server change by giffgaff sorry thats best i can say an i only use 2g phone an thats for internet also
Get a free giffgaff Sim
Message 4 of 7
by: harrymcspider
on: 26/12/2014 | 18:09 edited: 26/12/2014 | 21:04

Giffgaff has already confirmed that as an MVNO it has limited national bandwidth rented from Telefonica UK. This sets a hard limit on the amount/speed of data that is available to giffgaff nationally at any given time before data packets are dropped by the host network. In its example it cites how heavy data use in one part of the country may consume the available bandwidth and this would result in data performance anywhere else in the country being affected even if the local mast/s are not congested.  In addition there are also local mast bandwidth management policies applied by Telefonica UK that prioritise data access when a mast is under load i.e. congested.  Giffgaff has a lower priority which means its users may be unable to access the ideal mast/masts and their data service is affected (slow or unsable) due to slower data connection type or reduced signal strength .  Combine these two things and it makes for a pretty bad service especially if the amount of bandwidth rented is too low for the subscriber base (kinda thing companies do to reduce costs) or the physical 3G or above data network has a higher number of direct/indirect subscribers like in the case of Telefonica UK (aka O2) i.e. O2, Tesco Mobile, Lyca, Giffgaff, Talk Talk to name a few.


The bottom line is MVNO’s have far less control over data performance and often provide a far worse experience than the host MNO direct service. I find Giffgaff very poor for data compared to other providers I use and wounldn't waste my money on it.


As for how different networks compare especially with regard to data -


Earlier video version of the above that included a Virgin Media (EE MVNO) for comparison to the MNO direct offering -


Message 5 of 7
by: techmayhem
on: 26/12/2014 | 20:56
^^ Beautifully Explained. MVNO's do really suck for DATA compared to MNO's.
I think Vodafone offers a decent service in my area and I might go with them. O2 is decent but the worst is 3 or EE. (Birmingham that is)
Message 6 of 7
by: mtbgus
on: 27/12/2014 | 16:27

It's a strange one, I use T-Mobile for it's 6 months data for £20 on my dual sim phone and get great 3g speeds from it.


I have also tried the MVNO's Ventone and Delight mobile which run on the same EE network.   In both cases I have recieved the same speeds as T-mobile but oddly I get a stronger signal from the mvno's than T-mobile and my phone also holds onto the signal on these mvno's much better when moving into weaker signal areas, one such area in a wooded valley close to home T-Mobile refuses to connect and yet Ventone and Delight get 1-3 bars on G or H signal, very strange as they run on the same network and cost much less for calls, texts and bundles.

Message 7 of 7