After finally receiving sign off from the government, the long-awaited 5G spectrum auction is now expected to take place in Q2 2022
Belgium’s journey in allocating 5G spectrum has been highly problematic, with numerous delays caused not only by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic but, more generally, due to disagreements between federal and regional governments.
By July 2020 an agreement between the various stakeholders had still not been reached, leaving the Belgian regulator, BIPT, no choice but to grant temporary 5G licences to five players – Cegeka, Entropia, Orange, Proximus, and Telenet – or risk the country falling seriously behind its neighbours in terms of the new technology.
Since then, each of these companies has launched 5G services in various forms but have nonetheless been left waiting to get their hands on the spectrum permanently.
In January 2021, the Belgian government first approved draft legislation for the auction, with the spectrum set to include the 2.6 GHz, 3.6 GHz, and 700 MHz bands for 5G services. Operators would be required to cover 70% of the Belgian population with 5G after one year, increasing to 99.5 after two years, and 99.8% by six years.
Further back and forth between the various parties continued throughout 2021, particularly regarding the federal government’s wish to reserve spectrum in the auction for a new entrant to the Belgian telecoms market in the form of a fourth national operator.
Now, Belgium’s Minister of Telecoms, Petra de Sutter, has announced that royal decrees have been approved, with the auction finally set to take place in Q2 of 2022.
de Sutter described the process as being “in the home stretch”, noting that these final approvals had taken into account concerns expressed by the Concertation Committee (a multilateral body of federal and regional government ministers), a complementary study on the potential impact of a fourth mobile operator, a public consultation, and the opinion of the Council of State.
The spectrum reserved for the incoming fourth operator has notably been reduced, potentially allowing B2B players to bid for some of the available frequencies.
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