After a long wait and an EC flap, Brussels finally gets its first taste of 4G

Strict legislation in the Belgian capital meant that the home of the European Commission is only now getting access to LTE - but citywide coverage is still at least a year away.
Written by Martin Gijzemijter, Contributor

Residents of Brussels finally got 4G access this week, after Belgacom's mobile arm Proximus became the first operator in Belgium to rollout an LTE network in Brussels. 

The launch of the LTE network in the Belgian city marks the end of a surreal situation in which almost the entire country had access to 4G, except for its capital, the economic hub of the country and home of the European Commission.

High-level commotion

The network was launched in anticipation of a new ordinance expected to be published shortly by the Parliament of the Brussels Region of Belgium.

Under current legislation, telcos are prohibited from using mobile towers that exceed a limit of three volts per metre, a limit 200 times lower than those recommended by the EU and the World Health Organisation — making them not only the toughest across Belgium, but in all of the European Union as well.

The situation led to serious commotion, which even saw European Commission VP Neelie Kroes getting involved, writing a letter to the Brussels authorities asking for an explanation. Finally, in December last year, the Brussels parliament agreed to raise the radiation cap from three volts per metre to six volts per metre, effectively allowing 4G antennas to be rolled out in the city.

An early start

Even though the new legislation has not yet come into effect, Proximus still saw fit to launch its 4G network in Brussels, which, the telco says, is the beginning of a major rollout: "From now on, everyone in the capital of Europe will be able to enjoy the convenience and superfast surfing experience of 4G. This is great news for the many companies and the European and international institutions and for the individuals who live or work in the Brussels region."

In launching its 4G network, Proximus did not violate current legislation, as it was able to activate a part of its antennas based on the current three volts per metre standard, giving about 20 percent of the Brussels population access to 4G. As soon as the Brussels government publishes the new ordinance, the telco will be able to begin a wider deployment.

However, the company warned however that it will still take 12 to 18 months to complete a Brussels-wide rollout, meaning that the deployment will be complete at the end of 2015, provided that the company is granted all the necessary permits.

Proximus offers 4G to existing customers at no extra cost, so Brussels residents in the coverage area should already be seeing a speed bump, assuming they have an LTE-compatible smartphone or tablet.

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