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Wind Mobile's Chris Robbins leaves telecom start-up

Wireless upstart Wind Mobile has lost its No. 2 man not even three months into a bare-knuckle fight for market share with more established companies, leading analysts to assume that not all is well.

Chris Robbins was the high-profile chief customer officer at Wind, a company that markets itself as engaging in a "conversation" with Canadian consumers. Mr. Robbins was, at times, the company's face to its online customer base. He ranked just below Wind's chief executive officer, Ken Campbell, but often appeared at news conferences and spoke to media about the company's strategy along with company chairman Anthony Lacavera.

In a blog post on Thursday, Mr. Robbins wrote that the company is going through changes as it picks up speed. "As we move into a very ambitious growth mode, we're making some other shifts internally. Those shifts, combined with my desire to develop wireless and technology opportunities globally, mean that I'm leaving Wind."

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Iain Grant, of telecom consultancy SeaBoard Group, said Wind's recent moves - such as offering a $150 credit to lure subscribers from incumbents - do not seem well thought out, and may be linked to lower-than-expected subscriber growth. The company also recently offered a bundling package with Yak Communications (Canada) Corp., which is owned by Wind's parent, a clear attempt to match bundling offers from incumbent rivals such as Rogers Communications Inc. Analysts said this move was not overly significant because of Yak's limited subscriber base compared to the incumbents.

Wind, which launched in December, 2009, has had some growing pains, including dropped calls, network dead spots, and spotty service. The company's management acknowledges this, and said it is still working on getting the network up and running smoothly.

Mr. Lacavera, chairman of both Wind and corporate parent Globalive Wireless Management Corp., said the decision on Mr. Robbins departure was "mutual," that every start-up goes through changes, and that Wind is not faltering out of the gate.

"Would I like to have more subscribers? Absolutely," Mr. Lacavera said. "It is not some kind of clue that we're underperforming."

Dvai Ghose, a telecom analyst at Genuity Capital Markets, wrote that the market is likely to interpret Mr. Robbins' departure as a sign that picking up new subscribers is proving more difficult than anticipated. Previously, Mr. Lacavera said that Wind has reached more than 10,000 subscribers.

"While Wind Mobile has not reported subscriber results to date, this move may reflect that results have been disappointing," Mr. Ghose wrote in a research note.

However, Mr. Ghose added that while "Wind's teething pains may been seen as positive for the incumbents, we assume that they will be resolved."

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