Mobile phone company Meteor goes in search of roaming facilities

METEOR, the third mobile phone operator in Ireland, believes it has a cast iron case for access to roaming facilities on the transmission systems of the two major players in the market.

Meteor was the last to enter the Irish mobile market two years ago and access to the transmission system of Vodafone and 02 would nail criticism of it not having national coverage.

The group has 85% transmission and full coverage in the Leinster area where nearly two-thirds of the mobile phone population is based.

In the event of a takeover by Eircom, which has been mooted down the line, Meteor would be in a much stronger position to demand a good price for the business if it had a stronger presence in the Irish market.

It has been operational for two years but managed to capture just 5% of the market from its competitors.

Meteor has undertaken extensive reviews of roaming facilities available in other EU countries and has concluded that communications regulator Etain Doyle should have no difficulty in obliging either or both of the two key players to make their transmission systems, based on the protocol that has been in place in other EU countries for a number of years.

Meteor has made submission to the regulatorand is hoping for a response from Ms Doyle within a month.

If she rules in favour, Meteor would be better placed to offer nationwide coverage on its 085 network without incurring expensive capital costs in the process.

Meanwhile, rumours persist that Eircom will make a bid for Meteor. International financier George Soros, a stakeholder in Eircom, is also a shareholders in Meteor’s parent company, and markets insists cross-ownership will inspire Mr Soros to persuade the rest of the Eircom boardto get back into the lucrative mobile market.

It exited the market before while Eircom was still a publicly quoted company. The group decided, for strategic reasons, to sell the mobile division, Eircell, to Vodafone.

The deal precluded Eircom from getting back into the mobile market for five years. That period of exclusion ends in May of 2004.

Analysts point out that the Irish market has reached near saturation with nearly 80% of people owning mobile phones. Building new consumers, as Meteor have discovered to its cost, is not an easy task anymore.

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