Belgacom preps LTE launch, partners with Fon for Wi-Fi access

Belgacom, Belgium's largest telco, plans to deploy an LTE network, with initial tests scheduled to start this year in four locations. The company said it will use its existing 1800MHz licence to trial the network with a limited number of users prior to a commercial launch once LTE handsets become available.

Of note, Belgacom also used the announcement of its LTE ambitions to unveil a deal with the European Wi-Fi provider Fon. Belgacom said it its taking the steps as part of its wider strategy for converging fixed and mobile networks to enable users to switch seamlessly between fixed and mobile Internet access.

Belgacom said it will add Fon's community Wi-Fi capabilities into its own network equipment during this year with the objective of building Belgium's largest Wi-Fi network. Fon--which already has deals with Germany's E-Plus, BT in the UK, MTS-Comstar in Russia and SFR in France--has built its business based upon selling customised Wi-Fi access points and routers that are designed so that members can sell or share their wireless Internet connection.

The terms of the agreement with allow Belgacom customers to gain access to Fon's four million hotspots around the world if they make their Wi-Fi network open to other Fon members.

"The deal we have with Belgacom is that we put our Fon feature into their DSL boxes and their subscribers can become Fon members," Fon COO Alex Puregger said in an interview with Deutsche Welle. "We're hoping to have hundreds of thousands of [new] members in Belgium."

Separately, Belgium's fourth 3G licence has been granted to a cable consortium, Telenet Tecteo Bidco, which was the sole bidder. The group made an offer of €71.5 million to gain access to the spectrum, which the telecoms regulator labelled as technology neutral.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Telecom Paper article
- see this Deutsche Welle article
- see this Reuters article

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