The new mobile players on the Belgian market, which both bought 5G frequency licences, will open the door to lower telecom prices as well as new business applications, said Federal Telecom Minister Petra De Sutter.
In addition to Proximus, Telenet and Orange, a fourth large telecom operator called Citymesh will be added to the Belgian consumer market, alongside NRB (Network Research Belgium) which will focus more on companies.
"More competition could be the key to lower telecom prices. The prices in Belgium for surfing the internet, making phone calls and watching TV are now among the highest in Europe," said De Sutter. "This is good for consumers! A new operator can cut prices by up to 20%."
The auction of the 5G licences, which brought in €1.202 billion in revenue for the Federal Government, means the arrival of Citymesh and NRB, which "can provide lower prices for the customer and innovative business applications."
During the auction, Citymesh bought enough spectrum to become a full-fledged telecom player on the Belgian consumer market (B2C). NRB, on the other hand, will focus on business applications, such as in healthcare or for large industrial sites (B2B).
De Sutter pointed out that the Federal Government can use the revenue generated by the auction to catch up in terms of digitalisation.
Accelerating the 5G rollout
"Belgium is still lagging behind in Europe when it comes to 5G," she said. "We will use part of the revenues to catch up with neighbouring countries by subsidising 5G applications. This way, we are accelerating the rollout and stimulating technological innovation in Belgium."
She added that, after three years without any progress due to disagreements about the distribution of revenues between the Federal Government and the Regions, superfast internet is finally in sight.
"With the arrival of these new players, I can now truly speak of a breakthrough," De Sutter stressed, adding that the rollout of 5G is likely to start within a few months.
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She also added that a minimum coverage obligation for telecom operators has been defined. With 5G, this rate will have to reach 99.8% to reduce the white area (where there is no current internet infrastructure) in Belgium as much as possible.
"The rollout for the general public will probably start within a few months, but that depends on the telecom players themselves," she said. "In big cities, we see here and there that the 4G network is saturated, which slows down the internet. The arrival of 5G will solve this."
5G connections are up to 100 times faster than existing high-speed 4G connections. It may even end up providing faster internet speeds than some home broadband connections in Belgium.
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).