Belgium’s largest mobile network operator by subscribers, Belgacom, has announced that it has inaugurated commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) services in eight locations, those being: Hasselt, Antwerp, Ghent, Leuven, Liege, Namur, Mons, Waver and the Haasrode Industrial Park.
In terms of connectivity, Belgacom has confirmed that it will offer access to the new infrastructure via both dongles and handsets, with a range of tariffs on offer with a view to catering to a wide range of would-be customers. For residential customers with a smartphone a pre-paid option, ‘Generation Connect’, costing EUR20 (USD25.6) per month, will offer a 2G data usage allowance, 2,000 SMS and up to 80 minutes of calls, while a monthly post-paid tariff, ‘Smart 75’, provides unlimited calls and SMS, plus a 5GB data usage cap for EUR75. LTE-based mobile internet service via dongle will also be available, with usage allowance starting at 1GB for EUR19.99 per month, while a 2GB cap costs EUR34.99 per month.
As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in June 2011 Belgacom unveiled plans to roll out an LTE network as well as cooperating with the Wi-Fi provider Fon, with the cellco revealing that its plans would support the convergence of fixed and mobile networks, allowing users to switch seamlessly from fixed to mobile internet. At that date the operator confirmed it would use its existing rights in the 1800MHz band to test the LTE network with a limited number of users, in anticipation of a commercial launch when LTE handsets became available. The test network was initially available in Hasselt, Bergen, Waver and Haasrode. More recently, in July 2012 Belgacom revealed that it was expanding the trials of the 4G technology to the five cities of Antwerp, Ghent, Leuven, Liege and Namur. At the same time it confirmed that it expected to launch commercial LTE services by the end of 2012. Meanwhile, having emerged as one of the winning bidders in the regulator BIPT’s November 2011 auction of LTE-suitable spectrum – Belgacom bagged 2×20MHz (2500MHz-2520MHz/2620MHz-2640MHz) for EUR20.22 million – the operator has also noted that it could roll out 4G services in the 2600MHz band ‘at a later date, if more capacity is needed’.