After more than a year of stating its reluctance, Ireland’s third GSM operator Meteor Communications has decided to bite the bullet and introduce 2.5G services such as GPRS-based telephony and multimedia messaging services (MMS).
Included among the first raft of content and product packages the company introduced MMS-based photo messaging, long messages and MMS Lifestyle alerts, which it claims are not on any other network. To speed up adoption, the company said it is offering all MMS services for free until 31st December.
Last week, Meteor’s parent company Western Wireless International revealed that its Irish subsidiary had succeeded in adding 18,600 new mobile customers during the third quarter as a result of the introduction of number portability in the Irish market. This brings to 156,000 customers that Meteor has since it launched two years ago. A spokesman for the company recently commented that the Meteor aimed to boost its share of the Irish market to 6pc by the end of this year and 10pc by the end of 2004.
The MMS products became available as a result of the launch of Meteor’s GPRS network. Meteor CEO Stewart Sheriff said: “We have had GPRS capability on our network for some time but we have always said that customers are interested in products and services, not technology, and so we decided not to launch GPRS until we had a range of products in place in line with consumer demand.
“MMS was launched prematurely on the market by other networks and this was not in the best interests of consumers or indeed the technology, but we believe we now have a credible product and a range of customer friendly services that will be very well received,” Sheriff said.
“This is just the beginning”, he continued, ” in the coming weeks and months we will be launching new and innovative products for all customer segments”.
According to the company existing Meteor customers with MMS handsets will be able to use the services and send MMS messages to the other networks. The company said it will charge 9c per MMS message when it begins charging for the service. Meteor customers without MMS handsets would still be able to send MMS messages by going to the Meteor picture gallery on its website at www.meteor.ie
MMS Alerts that will be offered by the company are similar in concept to existing text alerts but can include photos and graphics as part of the alert as well as more text closer in content to a magazine article than a simple alert. Alerts that will be initially available include movie reviews, celebrity gossip, tarot and horoscope readings, news and sport.
In terms of new data services over GPRS, Meteor has unveiled a number of WAP services ranging from up-to-the-minute news service on the Rugby World Cup to enabling subscribers to access their MyMeteor, Hotmail, AOL or MSN email accounts.
Java Games, polyphonic ringtones, screen savers and logos are also being made available to Meteor’s MMS subscribers.
By John Kennedy