New chief for Meteor

26 Aug 2004

Meteor owner Western Wireless International (WWI) has announced the appointment of Robert Haulbrook as the new chief executive officer of Ireland’s third mobile operator.

He succeeds acting CEO Stewart Sherriff who takes an expanded role as senior vice president and chief technology officer of WWI. The appointment takes place with immediate effect.

Altanta-born Haulbrook has come from outside the Western Wireless group, joining Meteor from Centennial de Puerto Rico, one of six wireless operators covering Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, where he was both vice president and general manager. He brings a record of 20 years’ experience in telecoms including start-up operations, wireless voice and data and fixed line telephony.

At a press briefing this afternoon, Haulbrook said he felt he was joining Meteor at an exciting time in the company’s development. “The foundation is there for substantial growth,” he said.

He added that Ireland had much in common with Puerto Rico in terms of population size but that the market not as competitive as the US-owned island where six mobile operations competed “extremely aggressively” against each other. “Ireland should be a little easier from a pricing and branding standpoint,” he said.

Commenting on Meteor’s recent performance which has seen it win 22,900 customers in the last quarter, which is equal to the additions of the other two networks combined, Sherriff said “the word is getting out there” about the company’s value proposition. He added that the advent of mobile number portability last year had removed a significant obstacle to competition and that the recent national roaming deal signed with O2 had created “a level playing field”.

On the technology side, Sherriff said that Meteor had commenced a three-month trial of EDGE network technology intended to enhance the speed of data transfer on its network. A number of base stations were now EDGE compliant, he said. While stressing EGDE was still an unproven technology, Sherriff said it had the potential to be a stepping stone to or even a possible replacement for 3G technology. “It would be foolish not to consider it as a viable option,” he commented.

He continued: “We made a conscious decision two years ago not to go for a 3G licence and I think it was the right decision. I think 3G is a technology that will work but it’s not working yet and in the meantime there are other technologies such as Wi-Fi and WiMax that are eating into some of the revenue for 3G.”

WWI also announced that Andrew Kelly, currently Meteor’s director of regulatory and corporate affairs, has joined Western Wireless International and been appointed as director of Public Policy. Kelly will continue to manage both roles during a transition period expected to last until the end of the year. In his new role, he told that he expected to divide his time between Dublin and Brussels, addressing the regulatory issues facing Meteor’s businesses in Slovenia and Austria as well as Ireland.

The president of WWI and chairman of Meteor, Brad Horwitz, welcomed the announcements as being a clear indication of WWI’s commitment to its European operations.

“Meteor’s performance, both in terms of rolling out our network and building our business has been very strong this year,” he said, “and the company is now set to make a real impact on the market.”

Horwitz pointed out that as acting CEO Sherriff had initiated “an accelerated network roll-out, a number of significant technological developments and the introduction of highly successful commercial strategies.

“Stewart has done an excellent job in bringing Meteor to this stage,” he continued, “and I am very excited that we have a CEO of the calibre of Robert to develop the commercial strategies that will bring a very tough challenge to the big operators and increase competition significantly for all mobile consumers in Ireland.”

By Brian Skelly