Belgium seeks fourth mobile operator with 2019 auction

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium is planning a mobile frequency auction for late 2019, and wants to encourage the entry of a fourth mobile operator to compete with Proximus, Orange Belgium and Telenet’s BASE, the government said on Tuesday.

The country will hold an auction for frequency bands in the 900, 1800 and 2100 megahertz (MHz) range, as well as new frequencies in the 700, 1400 and 3600 MHz range.

The frequencies are set to be auctioned in late 2019 for a duration of 20 years.

“The conditions are such that, in case there is interest, a fourth operator can enter the market on good terms, which allow for a level playing field with existing operators,” the Belgian ministry for telecoms and the digital agenda said in a statement.

“The possible entry of a fourth operator will allow for lower prices, more innovation and a faster roll out of 5G,” the ministry said, referring to a new faster mobile broadband technology.

Belgium’s largest operator Proximus, in which the state holds a 53.5 percent stake, said it regretted the government’s decision, which it said would reduce prices in the short term but also affect the quality of the network and the profitability of the sector.

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Philip Blenkinsop