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Consumers face bill for Belgium’s reliable internet

2020 was a year in which records were set for consumption of the internet and phone traffic.  Lockdown fuelled an 80% increase in video calls.  Online volumes consumed were up 60% in only 10 months compared to a ‘usual’ annual rise of 30%.  Internet providers managed to cope with demand, but there will be a price to pay warns VRT’s Steven Rombaut.

Telenet users set a record last Tuesday week when nearly 2 million customers used over 3 terabit a second. Most of the data goes on streaming. More people are also watching more live TV, programmes when they are broadcast, in contrast with on demand TV, as people want to see the latest news live. There was also greater demand for fixed internet opposed to mobile internet as we spent more time at home. Proximus even recorded a fall in the number of mobile calls.

Use of Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet led to an 80% increase in video calls. People were keen to speak with relatives and colleagues.  Children got lessons online.

Abroad there were a lot of complaints about network problems.  These didn’t materialise here.  Recent investments allowed operators to cope.

Telenet has just completed a major 5-year operation to expand the capacity of its network, while Proximus is investing in its glass fiber network.

VRT’s Steven Rombaut warns that all these investments cost great amounts of money and will have to be paid for in future: “Investments for its fixed and mobile network cost Proximus 1.3 billion euros a year.  A glass fiber connection can cost around 850 euros per household.  Operators say that they are increasing bills in line with inflation, but add a little more.  It’s only logical that they are passing on investment costs to the consumer.  Consumers are probably paying their share in the investments, but in return we can call on a high-quality network that works across the whole country. Abroad sparsely populated areas do not get good service.”

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