Belgian businesses and agriculture ‘in danger of falling by the wayside’ without 5G network
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Belgian businesses and agriculture ‘in danger of falling by the wayside’ without 5G network

If Belgium does not quickly implement 5G networks, it will miss out on investments, innovations, and jobs. Credit: Belga

If Belgium does not quickly implement 5G networks, it will miss out on investments, innovations and jobs, according to the business world.

The auction for 5G has been postponed in Belgium until at least 2022 as the different governments could not agree on how the proceeds would be distributed. After the auction has been held, it will still take some time before the commercial rollout will follow, making Belgium lag behind the rest of Europe.

Belgian telecommunication companies, such as Telenet and Proximus, are not eager to introduce 5G, even though the business world needs it. Brussels-based aerospace company Sabca, for example, needs it to fly drones for fast transport between hospitals.

“5G is very important to us,” said Thibauld Jongen, CEO of Sabca, reports NewMobility. “We need to be able to count on a strong signal, and 4G is not always reliable. We now have to decide whether to equip the site with 5G or wifi, something that has no future. It is lost money, and it puts Sabca at a disadvantage compared to foreign competitors,” he added.

The same goes for the agricultural sector. “All our competitors, such as John Deere, have been working on 5G in their labs for two years now,” said Vik Vandecaveye from CNH Industrial, which develops and produces agricultural machinery, reports De Standaard.

Large harvesting machines could be controlled remotely via 5G, but the lack of it hinders the company in the race against foreign competitors.

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“Look at companies that are active in Belgium but also in countries like the US or Germany,” said Danny Goderis of Agoria, the umbrella organisation of the technology industry. “They see that what is possible abroad is not yet possible here. Belgium is in danger of falling by the wayside in the investment wave that 5G will bring with it,” he added.

On Wednesday, it was announced that the port of Zeebrugge would have its own private 5G network this year. The port authority is working with the operator Citymesh, which is the only company with a license to set up 5G networks in Flanders and Brussels.

Citymesh started as a provider or large wifi networks in cities. It purchased a ten-year license for part of the radio spectrum in 2015.

The three major Belgian players, Proximus, Telenet and Orange, were not interested in the ‘band’ in question at 3.5GHz. However, the decision to use that frequency for the 5G network was taken at the European level in 2017.

Even though only 13% are actively working on it, 75% of industrial firms stated that 5G would be “a key technology for their digital transformation,” according to Agoria.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times