Start of cautious 5G roll-out is subject to the outcome of the upcoming spectrum auction early next year
Businesses in Antwerp are to be offered 5G services as Telenet begins the process of launching its mobile network in Belgium.
In a statement it said the first network slices will be served in the city of Leuven, the port of Antwerp and other coastal areas. Business customers with a 5G smartphone and a One, Oneup, Klik and King or Kong business subscription will be able to connect.
More coverage is promised in Spring in 2022, aimed at subscribers to Telenet Business and Base. “The 5G network will be gradually expanded in the coming years. By 2025, the entire mobile network of Telenet and Base should be expanded with 5G,” Telenet says.
Spectrum auction hold up
Belgium’s rollout of 5G has been slow and 5G spectrum auction rules were only approved in November 2021. There is no date confirmed for the auction itself but industry sources say it should take place before June 2022.
Since the auction plans involve inviting new players into the market, Belgium’s three incumbent mobile operators may be proceeding cautiously until the disruptive influence of a fourth mobile operator is known. Belgium’s telecomms minister Petra De Sutter has said the new 5G service provider could be a business service provider.
In October infrastructure equipment maker Ericsson announced it had been awarded a five year managed service contract to build Telenet’s 5G networks.
Re-using 4G spectrum for 5G
Telenet says its first 5G launch will be based on 3.6 GHz and 3.8 GHz spectrum licences provisionally awarded by the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT) last year.
Telenet is going to wait for the government’s licence auction before it thinks about a full rollout of 5G, according to an official statement. In the meantime, Telenet will reuse 4G spectrum for 5G at certain locations, it said.
The launch of 5G to business coincides with the creation of the ‘super’ Port of Antwerp-Bruges, which aims to expand as shippers re-engineer their supply chains for containerised cargo to avoid the bottlenecks caused at Eurotunnel and French ports. This modal shift has seen a diversion of trade through Antwerp, according to logistics specialist Loadstar. UK volumes alone rose seven per cent in the first nine months of 2021, at a time when international trade has slumped.
How 5G could run a super port
Ports are increasingly using the private 5G networks as digitisation and the Internet of Things (IoT) speed the processing of cargo and customs documents. Antwerp-Bruges is becoming the port of choice for British trade with Europe as it involves a more integrated system of box cargo processing which is much simpler for the user. “Most of the admin burden at the border is avoided because, for British trade to the EU, the customs process starts six hours before the container arrives at the port. By the time the ship moors at the port, most of the administration is a done deal,” said Port of Antwerp international development manager Wim Dillen.
Telenet’s Chief Technology Officer Micha Berger said there have been trials with other cities and businesses and now wants to let them experience the possibilities of 5G.