Meteor notches up 24,600 new customers

13 Feb 2004

Western Wireless’ Irish mobile operation Meteor has managed to notch up 24,600 new customers during the fourth quarter of 2003, bringing its total number of customers in Ireland to 180,600 users. The surge in business may be attributable to the introduction of number portability in the Irish market as well as a traditionally strong Christmas sales period.

In its fourth quarter earnings results and full year 2003 financial results, Western Wireless International admitted that virtually all of Meteor’s customers are pre-paid.

Across Western Wireless International’s six international businesses, including Meteor and its Austrian subsidiary Tele.ring, total revenue for the fourth quarter 2003 was US$165.2m, a 97pc increase over the fourth quarter of 2002.

For the year, total revenue was US$531.1m, up 75pc from US$302.9m in 2002. Net post-paid and pre-paid customer additions for the international consolidated businesses totalled 174,500 for the quarter.

“Internationally, we added more customers in the fourth quarter than any quarter in our history, and added over 450,000 customers for the year,” commented John Stanton, chairman and CEO of Western Wireless Corporation.

Parent company Western Wireless Corporation, which operates domestically in the States, reported consolidated total revenue of US$413.6m for the fourth quarter, with a consolidated net income of US$2.1m.

With less than 5pc of the local market share in Ireland, Meteor has been struggling to ratchet up its figures since it came into the market three years ago following a lengthy delay as a result of a court case surrounding the awarding of Ireland’s third GSM license.

Meteor, which finally began operating in Ireland two years ago after a two-year delay caused by Orange’s decision to sue the regulator over the awarding of Ireland’s third GSM license to Meteor, missed out on the watershed years of mobile penetration in Ireland, which currently stands at over 80pc of the population. As a result, the company has been struggling to break out of its 3pc share of a market dominated by O2 and Vodafone. The company believes it will have boosted its shareholding of the Irish market to 10pc by the end of 2004.

The company’s dramatic growth in 2003 was spurred on by the introduction of number portability. Growth in 2004 will be helped by the designation of O2 and Vodafone by ComReg as having “significant market power” and subsequent orders to open up their networks to other players will help Meteor spread its coverage in areas it doesn’t have infrastructure.

By John Kennedy