More competition on the convergence market

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.


of Belgians have a smartphone

A New Convergent Player on the Scene

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.


of the Belgians use their smartphone more often than their landline to make phone calls and to send business emails

“Pylon Tax” Lifted

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.

Registration of prepaid card users

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.


of mobile phones are already on the 4G network

Cybersecurity Coalition

Throughout 2016, (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.

Coming in 2017

  • "Roam like at home" will be effective from summer 2017, meaning that mobile operators may no longer impose roaming charges on communications (voice calls, text messages and data) whilst travelling within the European Union. So long as these communications fall within the bounds of "fair use", they will therefore be billed at national rates.
  • Following a consultation due to begin in the first half of 2017, Federal and EC regulators meeting at the Conference of Electronic Communications Sector Regulators (CRC) will present the new conclusions on the Belgian fixed telecoms situation and the possible dominant market forces. This exercise will help determine the technical and financial factors which will set wholesale prices for access to fixed networks, both for the traditional copper-wire network operators as well as the cable operators. This new framework will also be of major significance for the future deployment of fibre optic networks.
  • The new Easy Switch regulation, approved by Belgian Royal Decree, is due to enter into force on 1 July 2017. Its purpose is to make changing service providers for fixed line telephony, internet and TV into a simple one-step process, avoiding any periods of double billing.
  • The European Commission will continue this year with a complete revision of the telecoms regulatory framework, in the light of new convergent practices and the emergence of new "over the top" operators, who bypass the traditional network operators.
  • The government will be called to begin creating a legal framework for allocating and renewing spectrum licences for mobile services (900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 700 MHz) amongst others in order to set up and promote the development of 5G mobile services.