Belgium gets third LTE provider in Orange's Mobistar

Mobistar said it is allowing subscribers to its mobile data services to use LTE services for free until the service is launched on a commercial basis in early 2014.

The Orange-owned operator competes with Belgacom and KPN's BASE on the mobile market, and is the last of the three Belgian network operators to launch LTE services. Mobistar said its LTE network is now open in 30 towns and cities to its "Dolphin" or "Panther" smartphone subscribers as well as to users of its "Internet Everyone" mobile broadband services.

These customers will receive an additional data allowance on top of their subscription to try out LTE technology if they use an LTE-compatible smartphone or tablet. Panther and Internet Everywhere users receive 5 GB of extra LTE data every month and Dolphin users receive 1 GB extra a month.

Mobistar said it will add at least 40 cities and towns to its LTE network and launch its commercial offer in early 2014. By 2015, the operator's goal is to have the same LTE coverage as its current 2G network coverage.

Mobistar recently acquired an 800 MHz spectrum licence to operate an LTE network through Belgium. The Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT) sold three lots of 800 MHz spectrum for €360 million ($489 million) to Belgacom, BASE and Mobistar.

Each operator paid €120 million ($163 million) for a licence, which is valid for 20 years. Belgacom and BASE have already launched some LTE services in their existing 1800 MHz frequency bands. Mobistar also confirmed it would adhere to the stricter coverage obligations of its licence. According to BIPT, the licence won by Mobistar requires the operator to cover 98 per cent of the total population within three years in those municipalities where no operator has satisfactory 3G coverage.

In October, BASE Belgium became the second operator to launch LTE services after Belgacom, and said the services are now available in 15 cities across the country. It is promising theoretical speeds of up to 86 Mbps, and said the services are available to subscribers of its B-39, B-49, B-59, BASE Check 35 and Internet Anywhere 30 plans.

As is the case for most operators in Europe, LTE is an important step for Belgium's service providers as they seek to overcome the challenges of increased competition amid a difficult economic environment. Additional competition is being provided by MVNOs such as cable operator Telenet, which posted core profits that were higher than expected in the third quarter, and attributed the result to strong growth in its mobile business as well as solid adoption of its triple-play plans.

For more:
- see this Mobistar release

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