With EU deadlines for 5G rollout arriving this year, Belgium cannot afford to wait for 2021 to allocate spectrum

Belgium’s regulator, the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT), has proposed the issue of temporary 5G licences in the 3.5 GHz band to avoid hindering the country’s 5G rollout. 

With the country’s existing 2G and 3G licences due to expire in 2021, the BIPT was initially seeking to save itself a headache by auctioning the new 3.5 GHz band at the same time as it reauctioned the older bands (900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, and 2,100 MHz).

However, this plan has created its own problems, since the EU has deadlines for its member states to start their 5G rollout by 2020.

Thus, a solution is needed that can balance the EU’s 5G stipulations with national continuity of other spectrum services. Temporary 5G licences could present a feasible and seemingly uncomplicated solution to this problem.

“In order to allow an initial roll-out of 5G in Belgium and to ensure the continuity of the service provision for current 2G and 3G licence holders, the BIPT proposes different solutions. It wants to be able to renew the 2G and 3G user rights once the licence will have expired in 2021 as well, until new user rights can be granted. Pending a political agreement between the Federal Government and the federal entities, the BIPT suggests using temporary user rights for the introduction of the new 5G technology,” said the BIPT in an online statement.

The situation is made more complicated by the ongoing political uncertainty in Belgium. The results of last May’s federal election have left the nation with ongoing coalition negotiations, which are stymying the spectrum auction process. The BIPT is currently recommending the government extend the existing 2G and 3G licences by six months as a result. 

The BIPT has called for applications for the 5G band by the end of February, with all three of Belgium’s existing operators – Proximus, Orange, and Telenet – expected to take part.


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