The lion’s share of Belgium’s 5G frequency auction has now been completed. In the auction the government sold the radio frequency spectrum required to enable super-fast fifth-generation mobile networks known as 5G.
All the big Belgian mobile telecom opperators took part in the auction. However, the bidding battle also produced a surprise. For the first time in 24 years, a new, fully-fledged telecom operator with its own network for use by private individuals is to be launched.
"Citymesh Mobile NV" is a joint venture between the Belgian company Citymesh and the Romanian company Digi Communications. The companies have an ambitious plan to jointly develop a national mobile network with thousands of masts in a relatively short space of time.
Citymesh is a Bruges (West Flanders) telecommunications specialist. It was taken over by the Hasselt (Limburg Province) IT services company Cegeka a year and a half ago. The company had been a mobile operator for some time, but was only active in the corporate market, where it sets up private networks.
For the frequency auction it joined forces with Digi. Digi already operates mobile phone networks in countries including Romania, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Within the partnership Citymesh will continue to focus on the corporate market while Digi will concentrate on private customers.
The Vice-Chairman of Digi wrote in a press release that “We are confident that we can quickly offer the network and high-quality services at very affordable prices."
The co-founder of Citymesh Mitch De Geest told VRT News that "It will initially be a mobile data and telephony subscription. We will see whether we can also offer a wired subscription service. Our focus is now first on expanding the network. In 2023 we will be able to see when we will be able to launch."
The Federal Minister responsible for public sector industries Petra De Sutter (Flemish green) believes that once Citymesh enters the market, prices (that are higher here than in many other countries in Europe) may go down.
Ms De Sutter added that "Of course we have very good networks. They are fast and there are few areas with no reception. A fourth player will probably have an effect on prices and that is good news for the consumer."
More than expected
Ms De Sutter went on to say that "The way is now open for the rapid deployment of 5G in our country. This is important for companies and for the industry, but consumers too may now also soon see 4G replaced by 5G. That is good, because we were lagging behind in this area."
The telecom regulator BIPT reports that in total, the auction raised 1.2 billion euro. In addition to Citymesh, Proximus, Orange, Telenet and the Walloon company NRB also took part in the auction. Each was able to purchase a portion of the necessary radio frequency spectrum.
The proceeds from the auction are a major windfall for the government. They are much larger than expected. Prior to the auction it had been estimated that it would raise around 800 million euros.