Belgium 5G auction delayed until end of 2021 at soonest

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The hold-up is due to the time needed for "legal and legislative preparations" now that the coalition government is in place, amid regional spats.

The Belgian federal telecoms minister Petra De Sutter was quoted in told the Belgium newspapapre De Tijd saying that although the political stumbling blocks have largely been resolved, it will take another 12 months to put the appropriate processes in place for the 5G spectrum auction.

The sale of 5G spectrum in the 700MHz and 3.5GHz bands has been delayed by the protracted process of setting up a new federal government coalition, and squabbles between regional governments about how to share the proceeds of the auction, which is expected to raise at least €800 million.

Devil in the detail

Although it has been provisionally agreed that the proceeds will be paid into an escrow account until agreement is reached, this requires parliament to pass an amendment to the Telecom Law setting the minimum price for the auction.

It is also necessary to secure a series of Royal Decrees specifying the coverage requirements and other conditions imposed on mobile network operators before an auction can be staged.

Public concerns

The Minister has promised to press ahead with the process, despite public concerns surrounding the potential health effects from 5G radiation, particularly among voters of her own Groen ecologist party.

She said, "I take the concerns seriously, but I see no evidence at this time that the prevailing radiation standards are damaging health,’ she said, while stressing the government will continue to research the issue.

"But I will certainly not be the minister stopping 5G. The importance for industry, mobility and medicine is enormous".

The telecoms regulator the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT) granted temporary user rights to spectrum in the 3.6GHz-3.8GHz in July, enabling operators and businesses to launch services and experiment with the technology.