Belgian regulator BIPT’s announcement that the country’s three existing network operators had won all the available spectrum in its 800 MHz auction is a strong candidate for “least surprising news of the year”.
In stark contrast to Finland’s auction of spectrum in the same band, which dragged on for over nine months, Belgium’s was done and dusted in less than a day.
The regulator issued a call for candidates in August, and in September, it said three applications to participate in the auction had been received. The following month, it confirmed that all of them were valid, and that they had been submitted by Base, Proximus and Mobistar.
These applications had the deep pockets of some of Europe’s biggest telecoms operators behind them – Base is backed by Dutch firm KPN, Proximus by Belgacom, and Mobistar by France’s Orange.
There were three licences on offer, each for 2 x 10 MHz of spectrum, available for 20 years at a reserve price of €120 million. Each successful bidder would have to make LTE services available to 98 per cent of the population within six years of receiving its licence.
There was only ever going to be one outcome – each operator acquiring a licence, for the reserve price.
Proximus was the first to launch LTE services earlier this year, followed by Base last month. For now, they are using spectrum in the 1800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands. Mobistar is expected to launch LTE before the end of the year.
One thing’s for sure – if faster mobile broadband comes to Brussels soon (this also depends on local lawmakers getting their act together), it should cheer up Neelie Kroes considerably. It might even make her less dismissive about the state of European LTE!