The first-ever 5G spectrum auction in Belgium brought the government €1.2 Billion. The auction also left behind the country’s polarizing debate over the radiation concerns arising from the fifth-gen mobile network.
The regulator also re-auctioned frequencies in the 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, and 2100 MHz bands to support the continuation of 2G, 3G, and 4G services.
The billion-dollar auction saw two new operators that will make 5 mobile network operators in the Northwestern European country. Experts said the newcomers’ entry could inspire a transition in the country’s telecommunications industry.
5G spectrum Auction in Belgium | New Entries
One of the fresh participants in the auction was Citymesh. It acquired 50 MHz of unpaired 3600 MHz spectrum. But it didn’t just enter the auction. The operator has so far actively operated private 4G and 5G services. The telco spent €30.99 million for the above-mentioned frequency.
Citymesh also bought 30 MHz of reserved paired spectrum in March. This spectrum is divided between the 700 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, and 2100 MHz bands.
With the 5G spectrum, it will go for a major expansion in near future. It has announced a joint venture with its parent company Digi Communications. Citymesh will focus more on the B2-B market, Digi will primarily stress the B2C market.
“Our goal is to build the best, highest performing 4G/5G network in the country,” said Citymesh CEO Mitch De Geest. “Because we start from a blank sheet, we have the opportunity to take advantage of the technological advances of 5G from the start and can optimally plan the rollout.”
NRB to focus on corporate markets
Meanwhile, the other new entry was Network Research Belgium (NRB). It spent €10.97 million for 20 MHz of 3600-MHz spectrum. The company will solely focus on corporate customers so the other mainstream companies can fight without feeling its presence in the consumer market.
“NRB is not going to start selling subscriptions to individuals. Our business is B2B and this is the purpose for which we will use the frequencies obtained,” said a statement from NRB chief executive Pascal Laffineur. “We know that 5G will very quickly become an essential condition for competitiveness and efficiency of companies and public services. It was, therefore, crucial for our customers to be able to count on a local player, who knows them well, to immediately embark on this new stage of the electronic revolution.”
NRB seeks to start a 5G innovation lab soon to design new 5G use cases and applications for industries including logistics, hospitals, smart cities, etc. But they could face stiff competition from Orange, Telenet, and other tech giants.
Proximus was the biggest spender
Meanwhile, Proximus spent the most on the auction. It totaled €491 million for spectrum in all five bands. To break down its 5G spending, it coughed up €122.87 million on 2×10 MHz of 700-MHz spectrum, and €56.32 million on 100 MHz of 3600-MHz spectrum.
“The newly acquired spectrum in the 700 and 3600 MHz bands will finally make it possible to bring the benefits of 5G to the entire Belgian population. As far as the implementation of 5G technology is concerned, it’s safe to say that we have been a frontrunner so far, and we are very eager to leverage the full potential of 5G,” said Proximus CEO Guillaume Boutin, in a statement.
Orange Belgium shutting down legacy networks
The other telco Orange Belgium spent €321.46 million on all the available five bands.
“The spectrum obtained will allow us to implement our 5G ambitions and deploy innovative and future technologies to continue providing the best experience to our customers in an efficient and sustainable way,” said Xavier Pichon, CEO of Orange Belgium.
Orange Belgium has planned to discontinue 3G in mid-2023 and totally phase it out by 2025.
“By phasing out 3G technology we are getting rid of obsolete equipment that consumes a lot of electricity, space, and human energy to maintain,” said Orange Belgium’s chief network officer Stefan Slavnicu. “3G data represents today less than 2 percent of the total data traffic on the network. With this move, we will have networks that are software-based, resilient, and automated, ready for future evolutions.”
At the same time, Telenet also acquired spectrum in all available frequency bands for the cost of €264.3 million. It has secured 100 MHz of 3600-MHz spectrum.
Also see: UK Preparing For 2G/3G Shutdown By 2033
BIPT already thinking of the second 5G auction
The 5G spectrum in Belgium took a long stretch due to the government’s policies on mobile radiation rules. But right after concluding its first-ever 5G auction, the regulator BIPT is planning for a second run. Next, the country will put up more 5G frequencies in the 1400 MHz for auction.
It seems Belgium has left behind its concerns of 5G radiation all behind and is ready to reap the fruits.