BASE in trouble over 3G delays

26 Jan 2006

Belgian cellco BASE has failed to meet a major requirement of its UMTS licence and could be at risk of losing its operating concession, according to Telecompaper. The company has failed to achieve 3G coverage of at least 30% of the population and could now be heavily penalised by regulator the BIPT. BASE paid EUR150 million for its 3G licence in March 2001 and the following month its Dutch parent KPN awarded infrastructure contracts worth USD89 million each to Lucent Technologies and Ericsson for its build-out programme across Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. KPN rolled out UMTS services in the latter two markets in the third quarter of 2004, but BASE has yet to follow. The cellco says it has had trouble securing building permits in Brussels, whilst rollout has been slowed by its inability to share equipment sites with rival operators Proximus and Mobistar, both of which have achieved 30% coverage and launched some form of 3G service. In the interim, BASE has been using EDGE services as a precursor to the launch of UMTS, and will look to use the so-called 2.75G technology to fill in the coverage gaps of its 3G service at launch. In late August 2005 BASE awarded Ericsson a USD37 million contract to upgrade its GSM network with an EDGE data platform, and it plans to achieve nationwide EDGE coverage by mid-2006.

Belgium, BASE Company