5G is introduced in Belgium in keeping with the European guidelines. With the 5G Action Plan for Europe the European Commission suggested a coordinated roll-out of 5G as early as 2016. The European Union designated three preferential frequency bands for the 5G technology: 700 MHz, 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz. The European Electronic Communications Code, approved by the European Parliament and the Council (in which also Belgium is represented by the competent minister) and which had to be transposed into Belgian law by 21 December 2020, imposed a specific schedule on the Member States for the introduction of 5G in these frequency bands.
This schedule is binding. By the end of June 2020 the deadline for making the 700 MHz band available expired, the period of validity of the user rights for the other pioneer bands had to end by 31 December 2020 at the latest.
The introduction in Belgium was the result of a long democratic process. This was initiated by the BIPT with the publication of its communication of 10 September 2018 regarding the introduction of 5G in Belgium. Next, the BIPT published different public consultations on the legislative texts. In July 2018 the then federal Council of Ministers adopted the draft texts organising the 3400-3800 MHz band auction for the first time. Prior to proceeding to an auction, the Consultation Committee, the body for the alignment of the different Belgian governments’ policies, has to come to an agreement regarding this.
At the same time as the deliberations in the Consultation Committee, the federal Parliament was informed as well. On 11 December 2019 a hearing regarding the 5G roll-out took place and a topical debate on 5 February.
In the absence of a political agreement and with the European deadline for the introduction of 5G in sight, the BIPT initiated a procedure for the granting of temporary user rights in a part of the 3600 MHz band for the provision of 5G. Early 2020, the BIPT launched a call for candidates. The draft decision for the granting of the temporary licences to the candidate operators (Cegeka, Entropia Investments BVBA, Orange Belgium, Proximus and Telenet Group), including the terms and conditions for use, such as the technical requirements, the fees due, the validity of the licence ... was published for public consultation on 23 March 2020.
On 22 January 2021, the federal Council of Ministers reviewed the 5G case and ratified a bill and a number of Royal Decrees enabling the auction of 5G rights in our country following the approval of, among others, the Consultation Committee.
On 26 May 2021 the Consultation Committee already approved the bill, which was adopted in the Chamber’s plenary assembly on 17 June and was published in the Belgian Official Gazette on 6 July 2021.
Following this, a public consultation was held from 16 July until 31 August 2021 on the Royal Decrees further implementing the multiband auction during which 5G user rights shall be put up for auction as well.
On November 24, 2021, the consultation committee gave its final approval regarding the royal decrees for the auction of 5G spectrum. After the publication of the royal decrees on 23 December 2021, BIPT has started with the preparations for the auction. This is planned for the second quarter of 2022.