When the Meteor landed in Ireland


Meteor Mobile has become one of Ireland’s mobile success stories,   last month announcing its one-millionth customer.

But during the two-year delay in the award of its GSM licence, things looked as though they could turn out very differently.

The only other applicant for the licence, Orange, took a complaint through both the High Court and Supreme Court, claiming the Irish telecoms regulator ComReg’s award process was flawed. 

But it was found to have conducted the competition fairly and Meteor finally opened for business in February 2001.

Larry Smith (pictured right, with one-millionth Meteor customer Keith Hanlon) was initially a consultant with the company, working through the ranks to become chief operating officer, then chief executive officer, before assuming the role of joint chief executive and managing director following Robert Haulbrook’s return to the USA.

His initial position as consultant came about after a stint in telecoms across the pond.

Says Smith: “I had known Robert [Haulbrook] years ago when we both worked for BellSouth [now part of AT&T] in the US.

“He suggested I come over to Ireland, as I was about to retire from the company and was looking for a fresh challenge. My retirement lasted three days; I joined Meteor in 2004, working my way up to becoming chief executive then managing director in 2007.”

As Ireland’s third network, Meteor was trying to establish itself against competition from two well-established brands (Vodafone’s Eircell and O2’s Esat Digifone).

But establish itself it did, with Haulbrook at the helm.

“If you take Robert as the foundation, he is really responsible for the success we enjoy today,” claims Smith.

“Prior to his appointment, if you go back to when it all started in 2001, financial resources were tight and being stretched to the limit; and not just here in Ireland – networks in a similar position to us had to get it right.

“In our case, these constraints allowed us to put together a team capable of delivering the goods, while working within tight financial controls.”

Full article in Mobile News issue 424 (October 6, 2008).

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