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Belgium's 5G auction in June – newby welcome to battle of the bands

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Finally Bipt is putting Belgium on the 5G map – but the long wait for frequency mega-hertz the operators

Belgian regulator Bipt is calling for participants in a long awaited national mobile spectrum auction, planned for June, which will provide the first 5G licences and redistribute key 2G and 3G bands. A package of spectrum rights is being also reserved for a potential newcomer on the market. 

The royal decrees allowing the preparations for the auction to start were published in December, after the government approved the terms of the 20-year licences last November. The auction will award 30 MHz of frequencies in the 700 MHz, 35 MHz in the 900 MHz band, 90 MHz in the 1,400 MHz range, 75 MHz in the 1,800 MHz band, 60 MHz in the 2,100 MHz band and 390 MHz in the 3,600 MHz band. 

Previous auction to be re-organised

The 2G and 3G bands are already held by Proximus, Orange Belgium and Telenet/Base, which received a temporary extension until the auction could be organised. In 2020 Bipt also issued in 2020 temporary licences for the 3.6 GHz band so the operators could at least experiment with new 5G services.

The regulator has set up a dedicated website for the auction where it published the details of the auction and licence conditions. Qualified bidders will participate anonymously in the auction, which will adopt the usual Belgian format of simultaneous, multi-round ascending bids. A minimum reserve price has been set for each spectrum block. Operators can spread out the amounts in annual payments. 

Spectrum, roaming rights, obligations

Up to 30 MHz has been reserved for a new operator. This includes 5 MHz paired blocks in the 900 MHz, 2,100 MHz and 700 MHz bands and a 15 MHz duplex in the 1,800 MHz band. This spectrum may be awarded automatically if a single bidder expresses interest in all six blocks, or auctioned separately if several newcomers come forward. Any blocks not awarded through this process will be included in the main auction.

Newcomers will encouraged by offering them lower coverage obligations for the 700 and 900 MHz bands in the first years of the licences. They can take up to eight years to reach near-national coverage. They can also deliver lower minimum speeds than the existing mobile operators.

The Bipt has also reserved the right to order the existing operators to provide national roaming for a limited period to newcomers that acquire spectrum rights for the 700 and 900 MHz bands. This power will be used only if the operators are unable to reach a commercial agreement on roaming.