Under new management; Smart readies for re-launch

27 Jul 2007

After the Annus Horribilis that was 2006, Irish alternative operator Smart Telecom says it is ready for re-launch. In an interview with siliconrepublic.com, the company’s COO Pio Murtagh said the firm was investing in its IPTV platform and preparing to offer triple-play services to its customers across 37 unbundled exchanges nationwide, giving it a potential target market of 550,000 customers.

Last year Smart Telecom imploded after incumbent operator eircom pulled the plug on its services – impacting 45,000 voice telephony customers – in a wrangle over an unpaid EUR4 million bill. Smart’s subsequent financial results were poor, leading to the resignation of founder and CEO Oisin Fanning, following which its primary investor Brendan Murtagh acquired the business, including its assets and liabilities, for a nominal EUR1. Smart’s woes continued however, as its 3G mobile licence was revoked and then, somewhat ironically, the UMTS concession was reallocated to eircom.

Despite growing calls to wind the company up, Murtagh has opted to re-launch the business, basing his decision on the operator’s strong assets including access to 37 unbundled exchanges, a fibre loop around Dublin and access to eleven metropolitan area networks through E-Net. In addition, Murtagh notes the company has a strong base of 15,000 broadband customers and is performing well in the corporate segment. The reinvigorated operator has since attracted EUR50 million in investment from a group of US and European investors, a further EUR15 million in preference shares, and Murtagh has also decided to merge his T50 fibre network in Dublin into the Smart asset base. The owners now plan to grow the company steadily, focusing on residential, SME and corporate opportunities. Smart has 1,200 customers paying for its digital TV services and its COO says plans are under way to invest in MPEG4 technology to enable the company to provide better compression and offer high quality IPTV over 5Mbps to 7Mbps broadband connections.