CORRECTED-Belgian 5G auction due in 2022, decision on fourth operator pending

(Corrects day of approval to Wednesday not Thursday)

BRUSSELS, May 27 (Reuters) - Belgium plans to auction 5G mobile licences in spring 2022, after the federal and regional governments approved a draft law on Wednesday about the spectrum auction.

The draft leaves room for a fourth player in the market but no decision has yet been taken about whether to reserve spectrum for a fourth operator, a spokesperson for Telecom Minister Petra De Sutter said.

The federal and regional governments are due to meet again before the summer recess, and could decide on the issue then.

The federal government previously wanted to encourage the entry of a fourth mobile operator to increase competition with Proximus, Belgium’s largest operator, Orange Belgium and Telenet’s BASE.

“We think investors and the different players were anxiously expecting a decision on the fourth player, putting pressure on all Belgian telecom share prices over the last week,” said David Vagman, an analyst at ING, adding that pressure on prices should ease for now in the absence of any decision.

Belgium’s plans for a 5G spectrum auction has been at an impasse for years due to a disagreement between federal and regional governments.

Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Edmund Blair