6,000 “key figures” to get priority access to the mobile phone network

Around 6,000 members of the security and emergency services will be given special SIM cards giving them priority access to the mobile phone network. This will allow them to still make calls even when the mobile phone network is overloaded. Issues caused by the mobile phone network being overloaded were a hindrance to the emergency service in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 22 March last year.

After the attacks at Zaventem Airport and the Maalbeek metro station in Brussels, the mobile phone network crash, severely impairing communications between the members of the emergency services.

The Interior Minister Jan Jambon (Flemish nationalist) promised to resolve the issue and from the start of next month 6,000 “key figures” (members of the emergency services, Mayors, Provincial Governments, security service staff…) will be issued with special SIM cards giving them priority access to the mobile phone network.

The will retain their own telephone number. However, under the “Blue Light Mobile” scheme their telephones will automatically switch to another network if their own network is overload. If all three Belgian mobile networks are overloaded they will be absolute priority over other users to make and receive calls.

In addition to members of the emergency and security services, there are also a number of politician on the 6,000-name list. These include the members of the Federal Government, the regional Prime Ministers and Provincial Governors.

“The people that would be working on the ground like the Red Cross and the fire service will also certainly be given priority."
 

A first in Europe

The Director-General of the Astrid emergency services communication network Marc De Buyser told journalists that "Belgium is the first country that is able to offer this service to the priority group of emergency and security service staff. This is important because all country are confronted with the same issues”.