Second 4G network goes live in Belgium, third planned – but still no LTE for Brussels

Base has switched on its LTE network in 15 cities, and Mobistar is testing its own equivalent, but regulations mean that Brussels remains a notable 4G black spot.
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

Belgium's biggest telco, Belgacom, has had the 4G market to itself since late 2012, though its mobile brand Proximus. That's all about to change, however.

The country's second-largest mobile operator Base switched on its own LTE network on Tuesday, taking 4G coverage to 15 cities in the country, including Antwerp and Bruges.

While the theoretical maximum download speeds is 86Mbps, customers can expect real-world speeds of between 6Mbps and 20Mbps, Base said.

Customers using 4G-compatible devices on unlimited tariffs will get LTE connectivity at no extra cost. Individuals on B-39, B-49, B-59 BASE Check 35 and Internet Anywhere 30 plans will automatically get free 4G now, as will business users on Pro Talk, Pro Leader, Pro Leader +, Pro Leader EU and Internet Anywhere 28 tariffs.

The country's third mobile operator, Mobistar, said on Tuesday it will launch 4G later this year. The service will go live at some point in the coming months in 50 cities and municipalities, according to Mobistar, with 40 more added in the first three months of next year.

For the rest of this year, however, the service will only be in test mode, with a few thousand customers able to use it. A full commercial launch is expected in early 2014.

None of country's three main operators is able to offer 4G services in the country's capital, Brussels, due to emissions legislation that caps the power of mobile towers in the area. As a result, the infrastructure in the city aren't powerful enough for LTE use. (The Brussels authorities are expected to tackle the legislation this year, meaning 4G should arrive in the city from next year.)

The Belgian comms regulator BIPD will hold an auction of 800Mhz licences in the country in November. Three organisations, including Mobistar, will bid for the licences, which will cost a minimum of €120m each.

800Mhz spectrum is prized by operators for 4G use, as networks based on the band need less infrastructure to cover the same area compared to those that use higher frequency spectrum, making the networks cheaper to roll-out.

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