2016 began with the further bolstering of the Proximus-Telenet duopoly, following the latter's acquisition of the mobile operator Base. Orange Belgium’s subsequent entry onto the convergence market brought competition to a Belgian telecoms market which had hitherto been characterised by abnormally high tariffs for fixed line services.
Following booming mobile data consumption and the ubiquity of smartphones in Belgians’ everyday lives, last year it became clear that the telecoms market, dominated as it was by a regional duopoly, needed shaking up.
When Telenet acquired Base, this only served to reinforce this feeling, as the sum total of the country’s telecoms operators dropped from 4 to 3. In the wake of this acquisition and the findings of an enquiry by the European Commission, Telenet was invited to sell its interests in virtual mobile operator Jim Mobile (an MVNO using the Base network) on to the Medialaan group (parent company of VTM and Q-music ) as well as Base’s 50% share in virtual operator Mobile Vikings.
This consolidation on the mobile phone market coincided with the arrival of Orange Belgium on the fixed-mobile convergence market and the launch of Orange Internet & TV. The operator is thus the first and only company in Belgium to commercially exploit the opening up of the cable networks by the regulator.
Concluding a cycle of decisions and regulations on the opening of the cable networks which commenced in 2013, a decision on the method of calculating retail prices was made in February 2016. Whilst not ideal, this so-called "retail minus" model (calculated on the basis of the retail price of competitors’ fixed services, minus certain costs avoided by the operator) was deemed sufficient by Orange Belgium to launch commercial services. The operator nevertheless continues to plead for the fairer “cost plus” model, based on investments and the true exploitation cost of the cable networks.
Now reduced from 4 to 3, the operators active in Belgium are henceforth all convergent.
In 2016, the Walloon Region signed an agreement with the telecoms operators: the Walloon Region undertook to lift taxes on mobile phone masts (the so-called "pylon tax") also putting in place a legal, regulatory and administrative framework aimed at facilitating their deployment. The parties also settled a pending fiscal dispute and agreed on the operators making additional investments in the digital economy, including improvement of telecoms infrastructures.
As part of measures to combat terrorism, all mobile phone operators are now obliged to ensure that customers purchasing a prepaid card are registered. Ahead of the game on this issue, Orange Belgium has made this a requirement for its customers since 16 December 2016.
Operators are anticipating that this requirement will encourage a certain number of prepaid customers to gradually go over to postpaid mobile phone subscriptions.
Throughout 2016, CybersecurityCoalition.be (founded in 2015) successfully ran awareness-raising and experience-sharing campaigns to help counter cybercrime in all its forms. The coalition covers over fifty public and private entities, including the main telecoms operators.