Belgacom’s GSM licence extended to 2015 free of charge

24 Sep 2009

Belgium’s largest mobile operator by subscribers Belgacom Mobile, a wholly owned subsidiary of national PTO Belgacom, has had its GSM licence extended for a further five years at no additional cost, reports. The extension follows a decision by the Belgian Court of Appeal which has overturned a ruling by the Belgian Institute for Post and Telecommunications (BIPT) from 25 November last year, when the regulator chose to abandon the system of automatic renewal of licences. The Court of Appeal reportedly accepted two of Belgacom’s claims, the first of which was that it had not been given sufficient time to respond to the regulatory changes; with its licence due to expire on 7 April 2010 the concession stated the regulator must provide a notice period of two years. By introducing the regulation in November 2008 Belgacom argued that the BIPT had violated this term of its licence. In addition, Belgacom contended that the regulator had only provided other regulatory bodies with a copy of its draft decision the day before the ruling itself, failing to give them enough time to reasonably examine the proposition.

Following the Court of Appeal’s ruling, which was issued on 20 July 2009 but has only just been made public, Belgacom Mobile’s GSM licence has been extended until 8 April 2015 at no additional cost. It remains unclear what the latest ruling means for Belgacom rival Mobistar, whose GSM licence expired on 27 November 2010; in December 2008 Mobistar revealed its licence had been extended to July 2013, but said it had raised a number of objections against the decision. The GSM licence of Belgium’s third mobile operator, BASE, is also set to run until July 2013. It is believed that the BIPT’s decision to restructure the expiry dates of the licences in question was to allow it to better reallocate frequencies.