3G wars to spark up as Meteor goes live with 14.4Mbps mobile broadband

4 Mar 2009

Meteor has started selling its 3G Broadband to Go service, which will debut as a 7.2Mbps service, but will swiftly include 14.4Mbps broadband. The company said its new Ericsson network is LTE-ready (Long Term Evolution) and deployable as a software upgrade.

Speaking ahead of today’s launch, Meteor chief operations officer Brendan Lynch told siliconrepublic.com that the existing network covers 33pc of the population, mainly in Dublin and Cork, and that by September, the service will cover 53pc of the Irish population.

The company has launched its 3G network with the Huawei E180 dongle – the world’s slimmest HSPA USB stick – which will retail for €29 on bill-pay.

Meteor’s entry into the mobile broadband space will pit the company against existing competitors 3, Vodafone and O2. Meteor, which has a 27pc share of the Irish mobile market, will be targeting a market credited with attracting over 200,000 broadband subscribers so far.

In the coming weeks, Meteor will launch the Huawei E182 dongle, which will give users 14.4Mbps speeds.

The service will cost €16.99 per month on bill-pay. Prepay users can access a €2.99 day pass or a €19.99 30-day pass.

The Eircom-owned network did a silent launch of the service in Meteor stores last Friday, and Lynch confirmed that 500 users have already signed up.

Lynch agreed that perception is vital from day one, and he was adamant that Meteor won’t fall into the same trap that has befallen some 3G broadband operators in terms of patchy network coverage.

“This is a whole new network and, in terms of technology, it’s the best that’s available. The approach we have taken is to make this a deep network. Not counting the number of sites, we are looking to build a quality indoor and outdoor experience.”

From a war room at a Meteor building in Dublin’s CityWest, site acquisition teams and engineers liaise with the company’s Service Management Centre (SMC), which monitors broadband quality and endeavours to pre-empt problems before they arise.

The Meteor SMC provides live information to staff at Meteor stores who use a Google-based mapping tool to ensure that broadband buyers will be certain their connection will work from their homes or business before they leave the store.

“The customer experience of this broadband service is important if we are to gain market share and, from the outset, we decided the best way to do this is to be simple and honest about what we do,” Lynch said.

“We’ve done a phenomenal amount of testing and believe up-to-the-second network performance from the SMC can double as an effective sales tool in our stores.”

Lynch said that because the network is brand new, upgrading to LTE will just involve a software upgrade. “Unlike our competitors, it will be a software issue, not a hardware issue.”

Asked if the company will go down the same route as other European mobile operators who are enjoying great success selling mini-notebook PCs, or netbooks, Lynch said he wouldn’t rule it out. “It is definitely something we are considering at this point.”

By John Kennedy