MNC mobile network code: getting to know the term
Those specialists who work in the telecom industry are very familiar with the term mobile network code (MNC). This is the primary identifier for your cellular provider. It is by this that the mobile device identifies the operator’s name. Each provider has its own unique code. Now let's take a closer look at what it is, where it is used and why it is needed. Concepts such as mobile country code, mobile country code (MCC), subscriber ID, international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) are also taken into account. So let's get started.
What is a mobile network code?
MNC, aka mobile network code — This is a unique combination of numbers that the International Telecommunication Union assigns to a cellular network operator to identify it depending on the network in any country. This code consists of 3 digits. it is often used in conjunction with the Mobile Country Code (MCC), which also contains 3 digits. The main difference is that the MCC is recognized by the country, that is, it will be the same for absolutely all operators operating in a particular state, the MNC will be recognized for each provider. In total, both of these parameters will have an international local subscriber identifier, that is, IMSI. They are used to authenticate and identify all mobile devices connected to the cellular network.
To make all this more clear, let's give an example. So, the first digit in the code indicates the country geographic region (numbers 1 and 8 are not used here). The remaining numbers indicate:
- 0 — this is a test network;
- 2 — this is Europe;
- 3 — this is North America and the Caribbean;
- 4 — Code of Asia and the Middle East;
- 5 – Australia and Oceania;
- 6 – African countries;
- 7 — Latin American countries;
- 9 is Antarctica, as well as maritime, aviation, satellite, and ship communications that operate all over the world.
The second and third digits in the MCC code — this already indirectly refers to the country applied to a particular region. So, using the example of several countries, the MCC code will look like this:
- 250 – Russia;
- 257 – Belarus;
- 401 – Kazakhstan;
- 437 — Kyrgyzstan.
To uniquely identify a cellular operator, a combination of MSS and MNC is used. Thanks to this, you can understand which cellular operator and which country we are talking about in this case. Here are some examples:
- 25001: MTS, Russia;
- 25003: Rostelecom, Russia;
- 25006: Beeline, Russia;
- 25701: A1, Belarus;
- 25702: MTS, Belarus;
- 25704: life, Belarus;
- 40101: Beeline, Kazakhstan;
- 40107: Altel, Kazakhstan;
- 40108: Kazakhtelecom, Kazakhstan;
- 40177: Tele 2, Kazakhstan;
- 43701: Beeline, Kyrgyzstan;
- 43703: Phonex, Kyrgyzstan;
- 43705: MegaCom, Kyrgyzstan;
- 43709: Oh!, Kyrgyzstan.
This information is collected using public GSM land mobile networks, including GSM R, LTE, 5G, UMTS. In some cases, based on these parameters, it is also possible to determine satellite mobile networks, CDMA, iDEN networks.
Relevant information on MCC and MNC codes can be found in special lists. But in some cases, the information presented in them may be incorrect or insufficient. In particular, in the official lists you will not find information about the mobile country code and the code of mobile networks related to the disputed territories.
And now that you know what codes are used in mobile networks today, you understand how they are interconnected, let’s move on to getting to know such a parameter as MNC and its direct role in modern telecommunications.
A little history of the mobile network code
The concept of a mobile network code has come into use literally since the birth of cellular communications as such. Thus, in the first half of the 70s of the last century, the so-called concept of cellular networks began to be used, providing wireless communications for ordinary users. But for the first time in the world, cellular communications were launched in 1983 in America. Literally immediately they began to launch it in other countries of the world.
The promise of this area was quickly appreciated by many entrepreneurs and others. As a result, other cellular network operators quickly began to appear on the market. And their work needed to be somehow standardized, to learn to identify a particular company, as well as the geographic area in which they operate. This is how the global mobile communications system, in particular GSM, appeared on the market. Despite the fact that about 40 years have passed since that time, this technology has not lost its relevance. It can still be called the most popular and widely used cellular communication technology around the world.
It was the GSM standard that introduced the concept of International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) to the global public. That is, a unique identifier for each device connected to the mobile network. It includes:
That is, the IMSI will contain information about the user’s home country, that is, the state where he is registered, the cellular operator he uses, as well as directly about the user. The last digits in this code — this is the number of the mobile subscriber, by which his identification is carried out (assigned to each mobile device by cellular network operators).
This code binds a mobile operator to a plastic card, which is used by a person to receive mobile communication services.
Why do you need a mobile network code?
Despite its apparent simplicity, mobile network code plays 4 key roles in modern telecommunications:
- Identification of a specific cellular network operator in a specific country or region. This is the main purpose of MNC. Let's repeat ourselves a little, recalling that this code in combination with MCC is used to create IMSI — code that provides authentication of a mobile device in the global cellular network. That is, based on it, the system determines the subscriber’s home network and can send messages and calls to a specific device directly — to the phone number.
- Roaming definition. If a subscriber moves to another country, that is, leaves the geographic area within which his home network operates, his smartphone or tablet will connect to the foreign network. All this will automatically lead to a change in the IMSI code, which will include a new country code and the code of a new mobile network operator. The only thing that will remain the same is the mobile subscriber identification number – MSIN. The information received will be used by the subscriber's home network to identify the external network and direct all calls to a specific person's device. That is, thanks to this, a stable connection is ensured, regardless of where in the world a person is at a given moment in time.
- Invoicing the user for used operator services and direct use of cellular networks. As soon as a subscriber makes a call or sends any messages via cellular communication, this data is recorded by the system. Subsequently, based on them, the user will be issued an invoice for payment for services. That is, thanks to MNC, the subscriber’s home network will carry out correct calculations, including only those services that were actually used by a particular person within the framework of his tariff.
- Network management and optimization. Using this code, technologies that competitors use in practice are identified. By analyzing this code, the operator will be aware of current trends and will be able to optimize its network and ensure a sufficiently high level of services provided. That is, if in practice it turns out that any cellular network operator uses LTE technology, then its closest competitor will also need to switch to this technology in order to maintain its competitiveness at a sufficiently high level.
As you can see, the presence of a mobile network code has greatly simplified the functioning of cellular networks.
More details about the structure of the mobile network code
We have already mentioned that the mobile network code consists of three digits, which are assigned to the cellular network operator. The first digit in this code — this is directly the technology that this or that network uses to organize communications, and the second and third — this is the code of the operator itself, that is, mobile network operator (MNO).
If we talk about the technology that the network uses in its work, there are 10 options:
- 0. We are talking about TDMA technology, namely time division multiple access technology.
- 1. This CDMA technology — multiple access technology, which provides code division of channels.
- 2. This is WCDMA technology — code division multiple broadband access technology.
- 3. Indicates that the network uses LTE technology — long-term development.
- 4. This first digit in the MNC code indicates TD-SCDMA technology — multiple access technology with code synchronized time sharing.
- 5. This is a combined TDD LTE technology — time division duplex
- 6. Indicates AMPS technology — sufficiently conveying the technology of the mobile telephone system today.
- 7. GSM technology — Global System for Mobile Communications technology.
- 8. UMTS technology — universal mobile communication system
- 9. LTE — standard for wireless high-speed data transfer.
The second and third digits in the code, as we said above — This is the identification of the mobile network operator. They are allocated by the International Telecommunication Union to each service provider. Up to 100 such codes are allocated per operator. If we return to the examples, the American operator Verizon Wireless has a code 480, which indicates that it uses LTE technology. The AT&T operator has a code 310, which indicates its use of GSM technologies.
To structure all this information that we have provided in this review, let’s summarize briefly.
So, the mobile network code — it is one of the most important components in the International Mobile Subscriber Identity i.e. IMSI. The latter is a unique identifier on a global scale, directly related to mobile subscribers represented in cellular networks. In turn, MNC and MCC — These are the constituent components of the public land mobile network PLMN, designed to identify the home network of a cellular subscriber.
Let's highlight the technical aspects of the MNC code:
- IMSI code structure. The IMSI code consists of 3 separate components: MCC, MNC and MSIN. Here MCC — this is a three-digit code indicating the country where the home network of a particular subscriber is located. MNC — a two- or three-digit code that indicates a specific cellular operator within a particular country. That is, if the same operator is represented in different countries, the MNC code will still be different. MSIN – this is the personal identification number of a cellular network subscriber — part of a mobile subscriber's telephone number.
- MNC mobile network code. Consists of 2 or 3 digits. Often there are 3 of them, but in some cases regulatory authorities may assign a two-digit code. It is unique in the whole world. And this is necessary in order to be able to identify a specific mobile network among all those operators that are represented on the modern market. With its help, regulators distribute among the operators of a multinational corporation within their own jurisdiction. That is, each operator has a unique identifier.
- Network identification. Here the identifier of public land mobile networks PLMN is used, consisting of a combination of MCC and MNC code. Intended for identification and registration of mobile devices in a particular network.
- Write IMSI code. Recorded as MCC-MNC-MSIN. So, as an example, we will give the IMSI code for the USA: 310-261-321654987. Here 310 — this is MSS America, 261 — The MNC code of a specific cellular network operator, and 321 654 987 — this is MSIN, that is, mobile subscriber identification number.
- International roaming. If a subscriber moves to another country, his smartphone or tablet automatically starts using the PLMN of the guest network. In this case, the MCC and MNC code are changed, while the MSIN remains the same. Thanks to this, the system determines the location of its user and can route data transfers and calls.
- Technical significance. MNC code — it is a key component in all processes related to mobile device identification and initial network registration. With its help, mobile networks can redirect calls, messages and information traffic to the correct mobile network, regardless of whether a person is currently in his own country or abroad.
And all of these codes are part of the public land mobile network identifier that is used globally today. It plays a key role in the technical aspects of the functioning of cellular networks in general, greatly simplifies registration in the network, and provides international roaming and routing.
We looked at several technologies and terms that are used in modern telecommunications. But, as you can see, they are all interconnected and are designed to solve one key problem – provide subscribers with the opportunity to provide stable and secure data transmission and make calls from anywhere in the world.