The Belgian government aims to attract a new mobile operator through this new tender scheduled for 2019

Belgian telecom regulator BIPT has published the full text of proposed legislation to auction new mobile frequencies with the aim of attracting a fourth mobile operator.

The documents include a requirement for existing operators to offer national roaming to a newcomer. Current operators include Proximus, Orange Belgium and Telenet’s BASE.

The proposals remain subject to feedback from advisory bodies before becoming final. The Belgian government aims to award 5G spectrum in late 2019.

The government expects to award mobile spectrum in the 700 MHz, 1400 MHz and 3600 MHz bands. The authorities also confirmed that the auction process will include the renewals of all existing licenses that are due to expire in March 2021, namely concessions in the 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2600 MHz bands.

The frequencies are expected to be awarded for 20 years.

The possible entry of a fourth operator will allow for lower prices, more innovation and a faster roll out of 5G, the Belgian ministry for telecoms and the digital agenda previously said.

“Today, Belgium scores particularly low in the use of mobile data. At the same time, prices for mobile data are a lot higher than in other countries. By creating room for a new, fourth network, we provide additional investment, stronger price competition and lower prices for consumers,” said Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Telecoms Alexander De Croo.

“It’s now or never for a fourth player in the Belgian mobile market. I am convinced that there is certainly interest … to invest in rolling out a new 5G network in our country. That would be a good thing. We would be one of the first countries in Europe with a full 5G network at affordable prices,” De Croo added.

Belgium’s largest operator Proximus recently opposed to the government’s plans, arguing that the entry of a new mobile carrier will affect the quality of the network and the profitability of the sector.

“We regret this decision as it will allow a new operator to enter the Belgian market on disruptive terms. This will indeed reduce prices for the consumer in the short term, but will also immediately affect the quality of the network and the profitability of the sector,” Proximus recently said in a statement.

“This will inevitably put pressure on network investments and employment in the Belgian telecommunications sector.”

Proximus is currently carrying out 5G tests in partnership with Chinese vendor Huawei. In April, the Belgian telco confirmed it had completed a 5G field trial in Haasrode (Leuven) in the 3.5 GHz band.

The field trial was performed in a suburban application scenario, using 5G prototype equipment. The test used Massive MIMO technology, Proximus said.

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