Mobile network operators: how they work, and list of carriers in major countries

A Cell tower

A mobile network operator (MNO), also known as carrier service provider, mobile phone operator, or mobile network carrier, provides wireless telecommunications services to subscribers/users. This allows mobile phone users to access voice calls, SMS, and data (Internet) everywhere the service provider has coverage. The lists of mobile network operators in each country include only full operators and excludes mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) who ride on the infrastructure of these ones to resell telecommunication services.

How does a mobile network operator work? Mobile network carriers install base stations to build up their cellular network, and issue a circuit-like chip (SIM cards) to subscribers. These SIM cards go into subscriber phones to enable access to the MNO’s network everywhere there is coverage. With the advent of eSIMs, subscribers with compatible phones can now connect to mobile wireless networks without the use of a physical SIM card. Listed below are carrier service providers in the world’s top mobile markets.

Mobile network operators use towers to beam wireless signals to subscribers for voice, SMS, and data.

Mobile network carriers in the United States of America (USA)

There are four (4) major mobile network carriers in the USA. The first listed three are national carriers, while the last on the list is a regional carrier. All the three national carriers offer 4G and 5G wireless service, having shut down their 2G networks and in the process of shutting down 3G networks.

  • Verizon
  • T-Mobile US
  • AT&T Mobility
  • US Cellular

Mobile network carriers in Canada

The major mobile phone operators in Canada are as follows:

  • Rogers Communications
  • Telus Communications
  • Bell
  • Freedom Mobile
  • Videotron
  • SaskTel
  • TNW Wireless

Mobile network operators in the United Kingdom (UK)

2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G services are available in the UK. Mobile carrier service provider in the country include:

  • Vodafone,
  • O2,
  • EE
  • Three

Mobile network operators in Germany

There are three (3) main mobile network providers in Germany. They are:

  • T-Mobile (Deutsche Telekom)
  • Vodafone.
  • O2 (Telefónica)

Mobile network operators in Australia

There are three major mobile network carriers in Australia. They are:

  • Telstra
  • Optus
  • Vodafone (VHA)

Mobile network operators in India

  • Reliance Jio Infocomm
  • Bharti Airtel
  • Vodafone Idea Limited (Vi)
  • Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL)

Mobile network operators in Nigeria

2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G services are available in Nigeria. MTN is the only one of the big four operators to offer 5G services.

  • MTN Nigeria
  • GloMobile/Globacom Nigeria
  • Airtel Nigeria
  • 9mobile

Mobile phone operators in South Africa

South Africa has four mobile operators, as follows: 

  • MTN South Africa
  • Vodacom  
  • Cell C 
  • 8ta

Mobile phone operators in Kenya

There are four mobile operators active in Kenya. They are:

  • Safaricom Kenya
  • Airtel Networks Kenya
  • Essar Telecom Kenya
  • Telkom Kenya Ltd (Orange)

Mobile network operators in China

The Chinese mobile market has three mobile network carriers, as follow:

  • China Mobile
  • China Telecom
  • China Unicom

Telecom infrastructure and technologies continue to evolve, and mobile carriers around the world with them.

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