In mobile networks, there is this thing called PGW, which acts as the gateway between the internet and the internal network of the operator.

(From the user's perspective, this could be seen as the name of the locality in the first non-local hop when doing a traceroute from the device, or the last hop when doing the traceroute towards the device, e.g. T-MOBILE-US.car1.Sacramento1.Level3.net for Sacramento, California.)

What does this mean in the case of an MVNO on a UMTS/LTE network?

  • Do they run their own PGWs?

    • Do they share PGWs between different carriers, e.g. someone like StraightTalk that operates on all 4 major carriers in the US, all as separate offerings, without roaming on one another?
  • Or is the actual operator that runs the physical UMTS/LTE network is running the PGW, too?

    • If so, do they they physically share their own PGWs and MVNO's PGWs? Or do they only have a limited number of dedicated MVNO PGWs?
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    – Ron Maupin
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 21:22

1 Answer 1


It depends - sometimes the MNO will simply hand off at layer 3 from its own PGW to the MVNO's PDN.

Sometimes the MVNO is completely virtual and has no physical network of its own.

In other instances the MVNO might have its own UMTS/LTE network, in which case the MNO will hand off from its SGW to the MVNO's PGW (if I'm remembering my LTE architecture correctly).

  • Well, if an MVNO has its own UMTS/LTE network, then it's no longer an MVNO. :-)
    – cnst
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 16:16
  • Sort of - I'm talking about a situation where a provider has the EPC/HSS/PCRF but shares someone else's RAN. Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 19:39
  • If we assume that the MVNO has its own EPC, that would imply that the PGW belongs to the MVNO, because PGW is a subcomponent of EPC, by definition, right?
    – StockB
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 17:23

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