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Belgium finally to auction 5G spectrum next year, invites new entrants

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Relief mixed with concern for country’s three mobile operators as regulator backs new players entering market.

Belgium finally agreed about the auction for 5G licences with the Consultative Committee approving a legal framework for the network’s rollout next year.

The House of Representatives approved the bill for the auction of 5G licences in June, but discussions continued about how exactly the auction should be carried out.

“There will finally be a 5G rollout in our country next year,” confirmed Federal Minister for Telecommunications Petra De Sutter in a press release.

New players welcome

She also said [translated from Flemish] that if a fourth player – in addition to the country’s three mobile operators Proximus, Orange Belgium and Telenet – “wanted to present themselves at auction, this is possible”.

She added this would have, “potentially positive consequences for all Belgians who are currently paying high prices for their GSM subscription”.

The Minister also said it would countenance a specialist B2B 5G player that would “focus primarily on 5G business applications and thus drive more innovation where the greatest 5G potential has been identified”.

Indeed it has and is where the extant operators will be looking to get their investment in 5G back and open up new revenues streams.

Following others' example

This approach follows in Germany’s footsteps where Drillisch 1&1 was granted a national licence and is piggybacking on Telefonica Deutschland’s infrastructure while it builds out its own 100% Open RAN 5G network.

1&1 has dropped the Drillisch prefix and is backed by the German tycoon Ralph Dommermuth, who founded United Internet and is building the network in partnership with Rakuten Mobile, which draws on its own experience in Japan.

Portugal is also taking advantage of 5G spectrum auctions to introduce two new players into the market, Digi and Nowo, plus a wholesaler specialist, Dense Air.

 Next week De Sutter will present her bill in the House of Representatives introducing additional security measures for the provision of 5G mobile services.