I changed my phone account from Vodafone Ireland over to Meteor. I’m expecting to save maybe EUR 300 or 500 a year on my EUR 1200-a-year account. I am generally pretty happy so far. They gave me a shiny new phone with lots of features (the Ericsson w800i, which is more of a ‘groovy’ phone than a business phone). They even rang me to tell me I’d won a gift voucher in a draw as a result of my purchase.
I am making this change mainly on price grounds. Vodafone is just too expensive for what I’m getting. They have good customer service (though Meteor is OK, but not as good), loads of shops, great ads and a 3G network. They also work hard at getting and retaining business customers. They have more business-oriented handsets than Meteor (although they are still not as good as the ones available in the UK, and the prices are high considering the amount I spend on calls). But I just don’t need all that stuff. I’d rather a decent, basic service without too many frills.
Meteor has also been given added credibility through being bought by Eircom. Everyone is confident in Meteor’s future now, something that wasn’t true two years ago.
I still see a gap in the marketplace however and the existing operators are ignoring it at their peril. Meteor are obviously moving up-market to cater for customers like me. O2 and Vodafone are moving towards the middle market. But the operators are leaving a big gap for the entry of a cheap-n-cheerful operator providing a basic product for people who want a simple service. Easymobile attempted it in the UK. It wasn’t so successful there, mainly because there are already a large number of low-frills products in the market (Virgin Mobile – a company I have worked with in the past, Carphone Warehouse, Tesco Mobile) and as a result Easymobile are having a tough time establishing themselves.
In Denmark, however, it’s a different story. The low-cost offerings of Telmore and CBB ultimately resulted in a restructuring of the Danish model which forced Orange to close its operations there and go home.
One way or another someone is going to get into the marketplace and offer this sort of deal. They’re going to make a lot of money, if they manage their costs well (a low-cost operator shouldn’t have to carry the burden of operating shops and giving out subsidized handsets). It’s just a question of who figures out how to do it.
There’s also a longer-term game which nobody has really figured out – the low-cost, high-service operator. As the market matures and handset prices get ever cheaper, even high-end customers won’t want to pay a premium for what is basically a commodity. Reliability, efficiency and economy will become the watchwords of the industry, rather than free handsets, fancy customer service and retail stores.
Disclaimer: I consult around the mobile telecomms area to companies in Ireland.