Belgacom ups mobile competition by offering 4G to all

BRUSSELS Fri Jan 31, 2014 7:39am EST

BRUSSELS Jan 31 (Reuters) - Belgian telecoms operator Belgacom will open up access to its high-speed 4G network to all its mobile customers, stealing a march on its competitors.

High speed mobile Internet is seen by telecoms operators as one way to return to revenue growth as income from traditional phone services such as texts and calls declines, though pricing has been a major point of debate.

Belgacom, the country's No.1 mobile operator in terms of subscribers, said on Friday it would offer 4G services to all of its customers at the highest download speeds of 86 Megabits per second (Mbps) within two weeks.

Those not on the most expensive tariffs will from September drop down to 20 Mbps, still about three times faster than the current 3G average.

Other European operators have already rolled out similar models, such as Swiss operator Swisscom, which gives unlimited data, texts and calls but charges users according to the speed at which they want to download.

Belgacom's 4G network currently reaches 50 percent of the country, while its main competitor Mobistar has not yet launched 4G services.

KPN's BASE, the third-largest mobile operator in the country, does offer 4G, but only to customers on its most expensive tariffs.

The Belgian mobile market has become extremely competitive, partly due to a new law which limits the time a customer can be tied into a mobile contract to six months.

Cable operator Telenet, which uses Mobistar's network for its services, has been a major source of competition for the established mobile operators after introducing new tariffs in 2012.

The roll-out of high speed data networks has been slowed down in Belgium by environmental regulations in Brussels, the capital and largest city, which is not currently part of Belgacom's 4G network. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Pravin Char)