The Belgian government gave final approval on Wednesday to the terms of the 5G spectrum auction and opened the door to a potential fourth mobile operator. ‘The deployment of 5G will take place in our country next year,’ telecoms minister Petra De Sutter confirmed after the Consultative Committee, which brings together the federal and regional governments, approved the legal framework for the tender.
The auction is now expected to take place in the second quarter of 2022, as telecoms regulator the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT) requires a maximum of six months following publication of the Royal Decrees in the Official Journal to be able to proceed to an auction. The operators will then need a few more months for the actual rollout of the networks. ‘This is great news for our country. After years of inaction on this issue, we are finally achieving what many bodies expect of us, starting with consumer organisation, but also the European Union and companies wishing to develop 5G applications,’ declared the minister.
Following months of discussions, De Sutter confirmed that spectrum had been reserved for a fourth B2C operator to provide greater competition to Proximus, Telenet and Orange. Alternatively, a B2B operator could acquire some or all of the frequencies for industrial 5G applications. Noting that it is up to the market to determine future developments, the minister claimed the entry of a new operator ‘could have positive consequences for all Belgians who currently pay high prices for their mobile subscriptions’.
Belgium’s plans for a 5G auction had been blocked for years due to disagreements between federal and regional governments over the increase in antennas, the extent of coverage in rural areas and how to divide proceeds of the auction, which is expected to raise at least EUR800 million (USD897 million). The authorities have agreed to place the funds in a blocked account until the latter issue has been resolved, while radiation from the 5G masts will also remain within the current standards – something which the Brussels-Capital Region, in particular, had asked for guarantees about. De Sutter also stated that she will present her draft law introducing additional security measures for the provision of mobile 5G services to the House of Representatives next week.