Smart looks at possible partners

Smart Telecom has been formally awarded Ireland’s fourth and final 3G licence last week, beating Eircom in the process.

Smart says it will not raise any more money to fund the roll-out of a 3G mobile-phone network. The company’s chief operating officer Ciaran Casey indicated that the cost of building the new network would be borne largely by its network partner, Huawei Technologies of China.

The amount required is estimated at €250-300m. Smart itself raised €44.4m from a share issue. Huawei is set to provide €150m worth of equipment for the network, and in its licence application Smart indicated that it would seeks additional partners.

Casey also said the company was likely to have a British mobile phone operator as a partner to operate the retail side of the mobile phone business. The company does have existing contacts with Virgin Mobile after its unsuccessful joint €435m bid for Meteor in mid 2005, but at least six mobile operators are believed to have made approaches to Smart – with Orange’s name also to the fore.

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