The Italian mobile market has always been vibrant and dynamic. We all know the 4 Italian mobile operators: TIM, Vodafone, WindTre and Iliad, but not everybody knows the variety and the characteristics of the mobile virtual operator of the Italian market.

What is a mobile virtual operator?

In Telco industry, not only operate the so-called MNO (Mobile Network Operator), but also the MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), companies that offer mobile services without having a license for the relevant radio spectrum nor the network infrastructure, so they need to rent the infrastructure from a real mobile operator. Virtual operators can be divided in three major categories.

FULL MVNO: the company totally controls the service and relies on the network infrastructure provided by the MNO with which the MVNO has signed the agreement. It issues its own SIM cards and it can change MNO with no need for any SIM card change.

Fastweb Mobile

Fastweb has signed an agreement with WindTre to realize a unique 5G network to provide a high level of service.

Kena Mobile

Noverca is a company that operates in mobile market and it is part of Telecom Italia Group. To be launched in retail segment, Noverca ideated the new brand Kena Mobile which provides its services thanks to TIM mobile network.


One of the global biggest MVNO that cooperates with Vodafone to provide its services in Italy.


New arrival here in Italy, Spusu will enter the Italian market on the first trimester of 2020 and it will carry on the project together with WindTre.

ESP MVNO (Enhanced Service Provider): the company only manages the infrastructures for the commercialization of mobile services, so the SIM cards and the network access are managed and controlled directly by the MNO. This kind of MVNO is the most popular in Italy: it is cheap, but it doesn’t allow the mobile virtual operator to change MNO.

ho. Mobile

ho. mobile network covers 99% of the Italian population, 98% of which is covered by 4G Basic network, with a speed of 30 Mbps in downloading and uploading. The network and the SIM cards are managed by Vodafone.


CoopVoce is the mobile virtual operator of Coop, which has been active since 2007. To provide the service, Coop signed the agreement with TIM.

Tiscali Mobile

Tiscali has also signed an agreement with TIM to provide its mobile virtual service.

ATR (Air Time Reseller): the company buys in bulk the traffic of a MNO and sells it again, managing its commercialization, the billing and the customer care service. The major ATR in the Italian market is Green Telecomunicazioni, that cooperates with WindTre.

Why should we choose a mobile virtual operator?

There are both pros and cons in choosing a MVNO, let’s see why. The pros are the low costs of the tariffs offered by MVNOs, no hidden costs and the ease in changing operator. Among the cons, however, there’s the fact that MNOs first organize the traffic for their own users, giving a lower priority to the users of a linked mobile virtual operator. The risk is that they cannot guarantee the maximal speed of Internet.

Moreover, in some cases mobile virtual operators cannot access to the latest technologies of the MNO, but they can only provide 3G network or LTE network (LTE-Advanced and LTE+ are not included).

Today, the best MVNO tariffs in terms of price, network quality, minutes, sms and Internet giga are those offered by ho. mobile and kena mobile.


Maria Vittoria Seu


LUBEA s.r.l.