Stewart Sherriff, senior vice president of Meteor parent company Western Wireless International (WWI), will fill the hole left as a result of the departure of Sims.
Sims had only been with Meteor for 18 months, joining in March 2001 just after the company launched its mobile network in Ireland. Although Meteor said that it is ahead of its targets in regard to market share, the business still only has 4 percent of Ireland's mobile customers, well behind Vodafone and O2 who retain 96 percent of the overall market share for Ireland.
Meteor said that under Sims' leadership the company exceeded its major year-one targets for network roll out and subscriber growth. But industry analysts say that Meteor was badly hit by the legal delay in receiving its mobile licence, forcing the business to miss out on the all-important growth period in the market.
Additionally, the company's incomplete network coverage, at just 84 percent, has had an impact on the company's ability to attract new customers. "By the time the company had launched, the market had already reached its high point...all that was available was to try and provide a better quality service, a cheaper service and to rely on market branding," commented Darragh Stokes, managing director of Consultancy Hardiman Telecommunications
There has been speculation in the market that Hutchison Whampoa, an owner of one of Ireland's 3G licences, could be in the market to buy Meteor to give it 2G coverage. However, Hutchison has said in the past it is not interested in such an acquisition.
Sherriff has extensive experience in the mobile phone industry, holding senior positions in Hong Kong, Australia and Saudi Arabia. He has also had substantial involvement in the development, launch and management of networks in every country that Western Wireless International has invested.
Meteor spokespeople had no comment on the change in leadership, or what Sherriff's aims will be as the new chief of Ireland's smallest mobile phone operator.
Recently Western Wireless' own fortunes have been recovering. Trading under the brand Cellular One in the US, its stock option has begun to recover after falling 91 percent since the beginning of the year.
Western Wireless International (WWI) is the branch of US company that controls Meteor in Ireland as well as subsidiaries in Austria, Slovenia, Iceland, the Ivory Coast, Bolivia, Georgia, Croatia, Ghana and Haiti. In its last set of results, WWI said that EBITDA loss for its consolidated operations improved to USD10.8 million for the company's first quarter. This compares to a consolidated international EBITDA loss for the fourth quarter 2001 of USD38.5 million. Western Wireless did not give financial details for its Irish operation. Consolidated revenue for WWI was USD79.4 million for the quarter, up from USD12.8 million in the first quarter of 2001.