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Belgium 3G and 4G spectrum auctions planned for 2011

Pauline Le Bousse

19 April 2011

The Belgian communications regulator, BIPT, plans to auction 2.1 GHz 3G spectrum in June 2011 and 2.6 GHz 4G spectrum this fall, probably in mid October 2011.

The Belgian communications regulator, BIPT, plans to auction 2.1 GHz 3G spectrum in June 2011 and 2.6 GHz 4G spectrum this fall, probably in mid October 2011.

The 3G spectrum consists of blocks that were not awarded during the initial 3G auctions in 2001. The Belgian government decided to reserve this "left over" 2.1 GHz auction for new entrants only. If spectrum remains left over after the "new entrant" round, then the BIPT can organize a second auction open to everyone. The first "new entrant" round will be carried out in up to three steps:

  • First, the paired spectrum in the 2.1GHz band that is currently unallocated will be offered as a single contiguous block of 14.8 MHz duplex. If no bids are received in this first auction, the available spectrum will be split and then two more stages will be required:
  • The next step would be auctioning of a contiguous 10 MHz duplex block;
  • After the auction of the 10 MHz duplex block, all remaining spectrum (14.8 MHz duplex if no bids were received for the 10 MHz duplex block in the previous auction, or 4.8 MHz duplex if the 10 MHz duplex block has already been allocated) will be auctioned in 4.8 or 5 MHz duplex blocks.

The minimum price for 3G licences will be €20,833 per MHz/month, except if the total quantity of the spectrum held by the operator in the 2.1 GHz band does not exceed 5 MHz duplex. In that case, the minimum price is set at €32,000 per MHz/month.

The 3G auction will follow a simultaneous multiple round ascending (SMRA) format. All 3G licences will expire on 15 March 2021, both those assigned in 2001 and those that will be assigned after this latest auction process. Among obligations attached to the rights of use, holders of rights of use are required to launch services within 18 months and achieve 85% population coverage after six years. The winner of a 3G lot will have the right to access valuable 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequencies and also will benefit from national roaming. This roaming is subject to conditions, because it will be limited to existing 2G networks and will only be available once the new operator has achieved 25% population coverage. 

After the 3G auction, the BIPT will auction rights of use for several FDD frequency blocks and one TDD frequency block in the 2500 - 2690 MHz bands. The date for the auction has not yet been set, but it is anticipated to occur as early as October 2011. The minimum price for the user right is set at €2,778 per MHz/month for this higher frequency band.

The 2.6 GHz auction will also follow an SMRA format. A spectrum cap will apply to FDD bands preventing any candidate or group from occupying more than 2x20 MHz in the paired 2500-2570 and 2620-2690 MHz frequency bands. No spectrum cap is provided for the TDD bands.

Rights of use granted in the 2.6 GHz band will have a 15 year duration and will be transferable. No restrictions are imposed on the technology that can be used, with the exception of certain technical requirements to safeguard the coexistence of neighbouring operators. No coverage obligations are linked to the user rights for the 2.6 GHz band.

Additional information can be found on the official website of the Belgium 3G and 4G auctions (in French, Dutch and English), including a detailed 52-page memorandum (PDF) on the 3G auction and even longer 59-page memorandum (PDF) on the 4G auction.

Pauline Le Bousse

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