Belgian 5G auction not expected until end-2021 at the earliest

20 Nov 2020

A 5G spectrum auction will not take place in Belgium until the end of 2021 at the earliest, the Belgian federal telecoms minister Petra De Sutter has told newspaper De Tijd. Although the political stumbling blocks have largely been resolved, the legal and legislative preparations for an auction are expected to take another twelve months, the minister confirmed.

The sale of 5G spectrum in the 700MHz and 3.5GHz bands has been delayed by the lengthy process of forming a new federal government coalition, as well as a disagreement between regional governments on how to share the proceeds of the auction, which is expected to raise a minimum of EUR800 million (USD948 million). Although it has been provisionally decided to place the funds in escrow until an agreement is reached, parliament will need to approve an amendment to the Telecom Law setting the minimum price for the auction and a series of Royal Decrees specifying the coverage requirements and other conditions imposed on mobile network operators before an auction can be staged.

The minister has promised to press ahead with the process, despite public concerns surrounding the potential health effects from 5G radiation, particularly among voters of her own Groen ecologist party. ‘I take the concerns seriously, but I see no evidence at this time that the prevailing radiation standards are damaging health,’ she said, while stressing the government will continue to research the issue. ‘But I will certainly not be the minister stopping 5G. The importance for industry, mobility and medicine is enormous,’ she added.

The telecoms regulator the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT) granted temporary user rights to spectrum in the 3.6GHz-3.8GHz in July, enabling operators and businesses to launch services and experiment with the technology.