Further to a public consultation process with the electronic communications industry, on the 3rd of May 2012 the National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (“ANCOM”) approved the Regulatory Guidelines for Mobile Virtual Network Operators (“MVNOs”) operating in Romania (“Guidelines”).
Prior to the approval of such Guidelines, in Romania there were no MVNOs on the mobile communications market (i.e. no access contract was in place and no business activities were conducted in this regard). The Guidelines outline the general framework concerning the MVNOs and set a list of recommendations for their access and activity on the Romanian electronic communications market.
- Definition of a MVNO
The Guidelines define the MVNO as an entity which provides electronic communications services to mobile points (to their own customers) and, for this purpose, use the network of a mobile communications network operator since they do not hold their own license for using the radio frequencies and the network elements and/or the infrastructure required for providing such services. For this definition, the Guidelines refer to certain features of any MVNO, such as:
- They have their own customers and undertake the responsibility for the relationships with end- users;
- They establish and place on the market their own offer which may be different than the one of the mobile network operator (hosting the MVNO).
In addition, the Guidelines provide with a classification of four different categories of operational models existing under the generic name of MVNO, i.e. full MVNO, thin MVNO, intermediate MVNO and mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE). The latter is a rather recent type which provides potential MVNOs with corresponding network and infrastructure elements and/or solutions for differentiated services and plays an intermediary role between a MVNO and a host mobile network operator.
- General authorisation regime and allocation of numbering resources procedure As per the Guidelines, all categories of MVNOs are subject to the general authorisation procedure. Hence, any provider envisaging to operate as a MVNO should notify ANCOM in written, in this respect.
In addition, a full MVNO and a MVNE (as defined above at point 1) must notify themselves as providers of electronic communications services and networks depending on the network elements they make available or use and the full range of services they intend to provide.
In terms of the numbering resources, the Guidelines stipulate that ANCOM will issue a licence for using such numbering resources, further to a request submitted by any MVNO. The national numbering resources should be activated within a period of 6 months from such licence issuance date. Since the regulations regarding number portability apply to MVNOs as well, each operator must comply with current legal framework.
- Conclusion of access and interconnection agreements
The Guidelines recommend the terms for the conclusion of mobile network access agreements and interconnection agreements between the MVNOs and mobile network operators. However, the provisions of such Guidelines are not mandatory for any of these parties.
Thus, it recommends the MVNOs to primarily set a business strategy and an operational model, to negotiate and conclude agreements with mobile network operators prior to commencing their activity. The negotiation process for concluding an access agreement cannot exceed 6 months from the date the MVNO submitted its request, for the first access agreement, and 3 months, for any subsequent access agreements, respectively. The Guidelines do not impose any mandatory contractual provisions, but recommend that the access agreements entered into by the parties contain, inter alia, non-discriminatory conditions in terms of service quality as compared to those offered for the mobile network operator’s own services, provisions dealing with technical and commercial issues on network access, provisions not limiting the MVNO’s commercial autonomy, while ensuring that the end-users are offered services under the best conditions. Moreover, the Guidelines recognize the MVNOs freedom to negotiate interconnection agreements with any electronic communications networks and services providers, if they observe all legal requirements imposed by ANCOM.
- Final remarks
A MVNO is not required to pay the compulsory legal fees for the use of radio frequency spectrum as it does not hold any frequency usage rights. Such fees shall be paid by the host mobile network operator.
The Guidelines have been approved after a public consultation with different stakeholders, a market research on MVNO-related aspects and further to a great interest in such services. In its press release, ANCOM points out that 17 of the operators authorised for providing electronic communications networks and/or services expressed their intention to operate as a MVNO.