Esat BT is actively planning a comeback in the mobile phone market as a virtual network operator, the company has revealed.
The news follows recent developments in the market where the telecoms regulator decreed that the two main mobile operators, Vodafone and O2, must host so-called virtual operators on their networks. Last year the third mobile player in the Irish market, Meteor, said it would be willing to host mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).
Esat BT will launch a mobile service using another operator’s network and it is currently in discussions with other providers. “Bill Murphy [Esat BT CEO] aspires to having a mobile offering within our next financial year which kicks off on 1 April,” confirmed Esat Bt spokesperson Una McGirr. “In the next 12 months we will be back in business, not as a mass-market player on day one but targeting small and medium sized businesses because we have had strong signals from those customers.”
Last year Esat BT won the contract to build a third generation mobile network for Hutchison Telecom, but the company said that this deal was totally separate from its own mobile plans.
The MVNO model has proved popular in other markets and this year may see a flurry of such activity in Ireland. Eircom, now a fixed-line telecoms provider since the sale of Eircell to Vodafone, is also planning a return to the mobile arena later this year.
By Gordon Smith