Esat became the second GSM mobile phone operator in Ireland when it launched in March 1997. It has built a loyal following of customers on its '086' network, through a series of innovative advertising campaigns and special offers.

One of its most memorable ad campaigns was launched after a troubled week of high-profile downtime and dropped calls for its main competitor, Eircell. Because referring to competitors' faults directly is frowned upon in Ireland, the billboard was simply divided in two; at the top, in the dark, bland Eircell colours (purple and white) was written 'Notwork'; below it, 'Network' was written in the much more pleasant Esat colours (orange and blue).

Unfortunately, the company has faced continued problems involving opposition from residents to the erection of masts (as has also happened to the third operator, Meteor). Esat's coverage, however, is now finally close to 100%.

Esat operates both billed and prepaid tariffs, named Select and Speakeasy, respectively. They are comparable in price to Eircell's tariffs. However, the company also operates special offers, such as paying an extra fee every month to send SMS messages for 5p instead of 10p, an extra fee to listen to voice messages free of charge, etc.

In January 2000, the UK telecoms giant BT purchased Esat for $2.46bn, continuing its policy of buying the second-largest mobile phone operators in various European countries.

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