Alexander de Croo, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister, has unveiled plans to reserve an allocation of 5G-suitable spectrum for a fourth mobile network operator (MNO) ahead of next year’s frequency auction. In a statement on his official website, de Croo – who is also the Minister for Development Cooperation, Digital Affairs, Telecom and Post – confirmed that the auction for frequencies in the 700MHz, 1400MHz and 3600MHz bands will take place in spring 2019. He also indicated that the auction process will include the renewals of all existing licences that are due to expire in March 2021, namely concessions in the 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2600MHz bands.
He commented: ‘Belgium today is particularly weak in the use of mobile data. At the same time, the prices for mobile data are much higher than in other countries. By creating space for a new, fourth mobile network, we ensure extra investments, stronger price competition and lower prices for the consumer … It is now or never for a fourth player on the Belgian mobile market. I am convinced that there is certainly interest in Europe to invest in the rollout of a new 5G network in our country.’
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, incumbent Belgian mobile operators Proximus, BASE and Orange accounted for a total of 11.702 million subscribers at 31 March 2018, equivalent to a population penetration rate of 103% – some way below the 130% regional average for Western Europe.