Brussels finally gets 4G after politicians relent on tough mobile radiation cap

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The Brussels parliament has approved a proposal to raise the maximum allowed radiation levels for mobile antennas, finally allowing telcos to begin rollout of high-speed 4G networks in the Belgian capital.

Brussels has the strictest radiation standards of all of Belgium. In 2007, the Parliament of the Brussels Region of Belgium adopted a three volt per metre exposure limit for mobile phone base stations, 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 EU as well.  

Whereas most cities in Belgium already have 4G coverage, the cap has to date prevented the rollout of 4G in the city, and so damaged trade in the Belgian capital, according to a report from the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT).

"Brussels' current regulations and policy on radiation standards constitute a serious impediment to… the rollout of new mobile technologies, which has had unintended consequences on economic development, job creation, and consumers in the Brussels-Capital region. It seems appropriate to change the current limits," the BIPT said in February of this year.

The radiation cap didn't only raise concerns in the Belgium itself; even European Commission VP Neelie Kroes joined in the discussion, writing to the Brussels authorities on the matter. In her letter, Kroes asks for objective reasons for the extremely low voltage cap in the Brussels region and how it could be justified in relation to European guidelines.

Telcos get ready

In response to all the commotion concerning 4G, the Brussels parliament has now 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.

With the starting pistol fired on 4G, operators are hoping to launch their networks in Brussels as soon as possible. The rollout of 4G requires 380 additional mobile masts in the capital, which could take years, due to the time it takes to get the necessary paperwork to install them.

To overcome this obstacle, 133 Brussels companies have agreed to rent out the roof of their buildings to Belgian telcos, so that mobile antennas can be set up on there, following a letter by the Belgian economy minister Céline Frémault to do so. This development allows Belgian telcos to rollout 4G as soon as next year.

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