BIPT opens consultation on 5G multi-band auction; Citymesh planning consumer launch

20 Jul 2021

Telecoms regulator the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT) has begun a consultation regarding plans for the long-delayed 3G/4G/5G multi-band spectrum auction. Interested parties have until 31 August to submit their comments, with the auction expected to be staged early next year.

The auction will cover the expiring licences in the existing 2G and 3G bands (900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz) and new frequencies for 5G, including the 700MHz, 3600MHz and 1400MHz bands. The legislative package setting the conditions for participants and licence terms was approved by parliament in June but remains subject to approval by the Council of State.

Belgium’s plans for a 5G spectrum auction have been at an impasse for years due to a disagreement between federal and regional governments over how to distribute the revenue raised by the auction, which could yield more than EUR800 million (USD944 million). Under the minister’s proposal, the funds will be held in escrow until the regions have reached an agreement.

One of the key proposals is to reserve frequencies for a potential fourth mobile network operator (MNO) in order to boost competition. The B2B wireless connectivity provider Citymesh has been positioning itself to assume the role and recently confirmed it intends to apply for the spectrum package. In preparation for its potential new role, meanwhile, CEO Mitch De Geest revealed in an interview with L’Echo at the weekend that the company aims to launch a consumer offer by September, via an MVNO deal with Proximus. ‘We want to be aggressive in terms of price,’ he said, adding: ‘If we are to be the fourth operator, we will face the challenge of having just a few months to launch. We will therefore begin gradually. We won’t have hundreds of thousands of direct customers, but the idea is to proceed step by step.’ Nonetheless, the company will continue to focus on the B2B market. ‘We believe it has greater potential. In the coming years, the number of SIM cards in machines will increase significantly,’ he stated.