'Important step': Belgium to roll out 5G network next year

'Important step': Belgium to roll out 5G network next year
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On Wednesday, Belgium finally reached an agreement on the auction of the 5G licences for superfast mobile internet as the Consultative Committee approved the legal framework for the network's rollout next year.

The House of Representatives already approved the bill on the auction of 5G rights for mobile internet in June, but there was still discussion on how exactly the auction should be organised. That has now been decided.

"There will finally be a 5G rollout in our country next year," confirmed Federal Minister for Telecommunications Petra De Sutter in a press release.

5G is the next generation in the development of mobile internet, which the general population will notice, for example, in the download speed on their smartphones. However, a 5G network is specifically interesting for business applications to connect smart devices to the internet, such as robots in industry and healthcare.

Specifically, the earlier discussion concerned the part of the frequency spectrum that had to be reserved for a possible new, fourth player on the market, alongside Proximus, Telenet and Orange.

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"We have adjusted this reserved area so that it can primarily be used by an operator who is interested in the application of 5G for businesses," De Sutter said.

The auction is set to take place in the second quarter of 2022, in about half a year, as telecoms regulator BIPT needs a maximum of six months after the publication of the Royal Decrees in the Official Journal to be able to proceed to an auction.

After that, the operators will also need a few more months for the actual rollout of the network. In any case, 5G will be available to Belgian citizens and companies by 2022, confirmed De Sutter.

She stated her relief that the discussion is finally over and that the auction can begin "after many years of stagnation in the dossier." Prime Minister Alexander De Croo also stated that this is an "important step" for the rollout of 5G in Belgium.

"It is a leap in mobile communication where Belgium had been lagging behind; many other European countries have already organised the auction for a long time and there the operators are already rolling out 5G," De Sutter said, adding that Belgium is "finally realising what various bodies expected of us."

Future discussions

Yet to be determined is how the proceeds of the auction – at least €800 million – will be divided between the federal level and the various regions. De Sutter explained that this matter was left out of negotiations as "it might have made the discussion even more difficult," she told VRT. She said that the proceeds will be placed in a blocked account until it has been decided how they will be distributed.

The 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.

More information about 5G and the rollout of the network in Belgium can be found on this government website (only in Dutch, French and German).

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