Ireland’s newest wireless operator Meteor Mobile, which launched services in 2001 in direct competition with O2 Ireland and market leader Vodafone Ireland, has reported some success in the first nine months of 2003, signing up more pre-paid users than its rivals to boost its market share to just under 5%. Meteor, which has a strong strategic focus on the pre-pay segment, said it added 52,815 new pre-pay subscribers in the period under review – 41% of the total for net additions – compared with Vodafone (40%) and O2 Ireland, which claimed just 19%. Meteor’s rise has come largely at the expense of O2 which witnessed a surprising reversal in fortunes in the third quarter, reporting a net loss of 4% for pre-pay additions to end the period with 1.274 million customers. By the end of September Vodafone remained the dominant operator with over 1.8 million subscribers, 55.77% of the market, ahead of O2 which saw its share slip to under 40% for the first time.
Meteor Mobile chief executive Stewart Sherrif said that in a country where pre-pay makes up around 70% of the total market, Meteor had clearly shown that its popularity with consumers now makes it a serious contender to challenge the former de facto duopoly. According to the cellco, recent analysis by the regulator ComReg in a document submitted to the Oireachtas Committee on Communications shows that Meteor has had a positive impact on competition and prices: Irish mobile users now enjoy the third lowest prices for pre-pay in Europe, whereas in the post-paid sector, where Meteor is far less active, prices are the third highest. However, Meteor’s gusto must be tempered by the fact that it still lags far behind its established rivals.