Meteor (mobile network)

Meteor (mobile network)

Meteor Mobile Communications Limited is a mobile telecommunications company in the Republic of Ireland. They operate a GSM/GPRS/EDGE cellular communications network under licence from the Commission for Communications Regulation, and were the third entrant in the market, after Vodafone Ireland and O2 Ireland. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Irish telecoms network, eircom Group plc., having been purchased for €420m in 2005.

Meteor issue new numbers with the prefix code 085. Since the introduction of full mobile number portability in Ireland, access codes have become less relevant as mobile telephone users may now retain their mobile telephone numbers when moving between mobile network operators. As a result Meteor customers can now have numbers starting with the codes 083, 086, 087, or 089.

As of September 2008, Meteor has over 1 million customers, or 20% of the market.

History

Award of Licence

In 1998, the then Director of Telecommunications Regulation held a competition to award the third mobile telecommunications licence. Two companies submitted bids for the licence, Orange Communications Limited, then controlled by Hutchinson Whampoa, and Meteor Mobile Communications (consisting at that point of Western Wireless, RF Communications Limited, and TWG Ireland LLC). On 19 June 1998 it was announced that Meteor had been ranked first in the competition. However, Orange took legal action against the Director to prevent the licence being awarded. This legal action ultimately failed and on 29 June 2000 Meteor were finally issued with the third mobile telecommunications licence.

Launch

Launched on 22 February, 2001, Meteor slowly picked up a low (under 10%) share of the Irish market. However, they became profitable and have since picked up much of the lucrative pre-paid market among teenagers, due to their low SMS rates and ongoing promotions such as free Meteor-to-Meteor text messages. 2008}}.

In 2004, Western Wireless International (the then parent company) bought out the remaining minority shareholders in the consortium, and it became a wholly owned subsidiary of that company.

Acquisition by eircom

In early 2005, several Irish newspapers reported that Western Wireless had been approached with a view to selling Meteor. On 9 July 2005 it was reported by The Irish Times that there had been three bidders for Meteor: eircom, Smart Telecom, and a consortium led by Denis O'Brien. It was considered that the probability of eircom winning, was looking increasingly unlikely due to their heavy debt of approximately €1.9 billion. It seemed unlikely they could afford it, should the price have topped €400 million. However, on 14 July 2005, RTÉ News reported on their business website that Denis O'Brien had withdrawn from bidding, and that it was understood that eircom was the top bidder at €410m. On 21 July it was announced that Smart Telecom had also withdrawn, leaving eircom as the sole bidder. On 25 July eircom announced that it had agreed to purchase the company for €420m. On 18 November 2005 the Competition Authority approved, subject to conditions (primarily, that separate accounts continue to be published for Meteor). The purchase was completed on 23 November 2005.

Possible Break-up of eircom

In the Irish Independent it has been reported that eircom's owners Babcock and Brown are planning to break up eircom Group plc. retaining the core backbone Network Wholesale Division and selling the eircom Retail and Meteor Mobile Communications Divisions. It is reported that the retail arm of eircom could be worth €1bn and Meteor could be anything around €800m.But this has not been the case.

Rapid Growth

In the latest report from eircom, Meteor has gained an 18.9% share of the mobile market in Ireland, with a customer base of over 962,000 of which over 100,000 (12%) are post paid subscribers under the Meteor BillPay brand. The company's subscriber base has since increased to over 1 million as of September 2008. Meteor has accounted for 66% of the overall growth of the Irish mobile market in the year to September 2006. The company is now working closely with eircom in upgrading its billing systems and deploying EDGE and 3G technology on its network. With the recent developments in eircom's acceptance of the fourth 3G license from ComReg, Meteor is now obliged to have 33% of the population covered with commercial roll out of 3G services in October 2007. Meteor have also recently signed a deal with T-Mobile UK which will see T-Mobile UK contract customers being offered a flat rate £0.25 for calls made while roaming on the Meteor network in Ireland. On September 21, 2006 Meteor have also announced the abolition of charges to receive calls while in the UK like O2 have done and unlike Vodafone Ireland who still charge to receive a call while in the UK. Meteor have attained this by signing a deal with T-Mobile UK (as expected, due to a previous low-charge deal, only the other way around).

Products & Services

Meteor initially started out as a value-driven mobile service offering customers basic mobile voice telephony and text-based SMS services to mostly Pay and Go customers. Today the company offers mobile services, such as MMS, GPRS and EDGE through their Pay as You Go and Bill Pay brands, with 3G expected to launch at the end of October 2007. Their 3G service was however delayed. At the moment a trial is being carried out for a certain number of bill pay customers with full launch expected by the end of 2008.

Meteor Mobile Internet is the company's mobile-content based services, offering realtones, and other content available for download to existing customers.

Meteor Business is the company's division focusing on business customers. They offer services such as Mobile Email using Visto technology, Microsoft Windows Mobile Email and other products.

Network

Meteor previously had a national roaming agreement with O2 Ireland which meant that when out of Meteor coverage, a Meteor customer could use O2 Ireland's network at no extra charge. This deal expired in February 2007, where Meteor customers in some parts of the western seaboard of Ireland, now roam on the Vodafone Ireland network, while Meteor continue to build coverage in those remote areas.

Like all other Irish operators, Meteor now hold a UMTS licence. This means that they will soon be able to offer 3G services such as video calling. They currently offer GPRS (2.5G) services. They won a bid for the final 3G licence, when their parent, eircom accepted this, because, Smart Mobile Ltd. was unable to pay for the license. Meteor continue to add EDGE capabilities to their existing 2G network. In order to comply with the terms of licence, Meteor launched stage one (10% 3G coverage area) from their UMTS/HSDPA Network on the end of October 2007, with the second phase having gone live to customers at the end of September 2008.

The legal transfer of licence for UMTS services from Meteor's parent, eircom, was officially authorised on 2008-06-26 taking effect the following day.

Meteor Ireland Music Awards

Meteor sponsor Ireland's national music awards each year, and they have hence become known as The Meteors.

See also

External links

Footnotes

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