Belgian consortium scoops up spectrum

Belgium’s fourth 3G licence has been granted to the sole bidder for it, Telenet Tecteo Bidco. The consortium, made up of cable operators Telenet and Tecteo, paid €71.5m for the licence, which also gives options on GSM spectrum.

As the sole bid, Telent Tecteo Bidco’s offer matched the minimum pricetag placed on the spectrum by regulators. Bidco now has two blocks of 14.8MHz in the 2.1GHz band; it also intends to avail of its option to buy two blocks of 4.8MHz in the 900MHz band, along with 2x10MHz in the 1800MHz band – both highly-prized – for which it will pay €31.5m in 2015.

The licences are technology-neutral and, as such, are likely to see the consortium make a play in the LTE space. Telenet, an MNVO with over 200,000 customers, has said the purchase means it is now “ideally positioned to benefit from the anticipated growth in mobile data.” Belgium lags behind the rest of Europe on mobile penetration rates, thanks largely to low smartphone usage and a relative lack of competition between the existing operators. Telenet has been looking to expand its reach in Belgium, offering competitive pricing plans and handset subsidies; in a press release, the telco said its bid for the spectrum signified its intention to improve its “challenger position in the mobile market and will allow for the roll-out of high-speed mobile data networks such as LTE.” It added that owning spectrum gave it an insurance policy against future capacity constraints as well as opening up the possibility of partially or fully trading its assets.

The company said it intends to seek “more intense collaboration” with existing operators. Payment for the licence is to be made on an annual basis over the lifetime of the usage rights agreement, which expires in 2021, along with the other 3G licenses awarded to date.

In related news, leading local operator Belgacom has started upgrading its mobile network to LTE. The company said a limited group of Belgacom professional customers will be able to use the service immediately via USB modems, although the company will not launch a commercial offer proper until there are enough devices on the market that support 4G and there is sufficient demand from consumers and companies.

Belgacom is using the existing 1.8 GHz frequency band for the 4G rollout with coverage in Hasselt, Mons, Waver and the industrial park of Haasrode.

The operator has also partnered with with Spanish company Fon with an eye to building the largest wifi community in Belgium. Currently, the Fon Community has more than four million members worldwide and Belgacom will offer this service to its internet customers before the end of the year.

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