The fastest-growing mobile operator in Ireland is hoping to keep it that way – by continuing to invest in its network long-term – and committing to 4G rollout across all services.
Mobile operator Three entered the Irish market in 2005 and set about growing its client base within the increasingly populated and lucrative smartphone sector. Seven years later, and despite the entrance of a number of subsequent providers, Three remains the fastest-growing mobile operator in the country.
Innovations such as being the first provider to provide unlimited data on some of its plans, have allowed the brand to become increasingly associated with the growth of smartphones and internet browsing.
Three was the first to launch mobile broadband in Ireland with a datacard modem in 2006, as well as being the first operator in Ireland to offer a pre-paid mobile broadband service.
Three’s brand in Ireland has been hugely visible in recent years due to an aggressive marketing strategy and a particularly successful sponsorship arrangement with the Irish football team.
Last month, at the auction for digital spectrum licences, Three committed to paying €105mn to the telecoms regulator, Comreg, to secure the rights to use new digital spectrum bands that will be used to develop 4G services and broadband across the country.
The new 4G rollout across all mobile networks is seen as a vital step in driving the economy and in particular giving increased broadband access to the SME sector.
The allocation won by Three more than doubles the provider’s current spectrum holding which will support Three’s strategy of continued investment in its network long-term; will improve network coverage nationwide – and enable speeds of up to 180 Mbps.
Another important announcement made by Three earlier this year was an agreement with Vodafone Ireland on a strategic partnership between the two companies. The deal, the first of its kind in Ireland, will see both partners creating a 50/50 joint venture company to pool site portfolios and ancillary infrastructure on over 2,000 sites across the country.
The partnership is intended to allow both companies benefit from increased purchasing leverage, an increased fibre footprint and the opportunity to expand mobile network coverage for customers.
With Three’s retail division performing consistently, the mobile provider has recently begun to put an increased focus on the commercial side of the business, a job which is being headed up by Eoin MacManus, commercial director at Three.
The increase in commercial activity has two separate strands. The first stand is Three’s expansion into the wholesale space, earlier this year. This saw Three sign a deal with x-Mobility that will allow new entrants into the market connect to the Three network. As part of the deal, x-Mobility’s will provide operations support systems to new brand entrants into the market who seek to piggyback on the Three network.
The second strand of Three’s commercial operation is the continued development of the provider’s business-to-business operation.
Three Business’ is focused on businesses of small to medium scale, with firms of between 1 to 1,000 handsets covered by the service.
Some of the innovations that have proved successful in the consumer market have been transferred to ‘Three Business’ with ‘All you can eat’ data tariff plans proving particularly popular among clients with staff travelling throughout the EU on a daily basis.
Three is owned by Hutchison Whampoa, a Fortune 500 company and one of the largest businesses listed on the HK stock exchange.
Hutchison Whampoa previously owned and ran the Orange network globally before moving into 3G services worldwide under the Three brand which operates in the UK, Ireland and worldwide.
Hutchison Whampoa is controlled by Li Ka-shing, one of the world’s most successful businessmen.
Robert Finnegan, a qualified accountant from Waterford, is chief executive of 3 Mobile Ireland. Having worked for the Hutchison Whampoa businesses for 13 years, Finnegan joined 3 in 2005.