Regardless of the economic woes, the Belgium government has decided to invite tenders for a fourth cell phone licence in an effort to spur greater competition in the market. A public consultation will need to begin followed by the legislation being updated; however, the successful bidder could, if all goes well, acquire the licence later this year and start operations sometime in 2010.
Several names have been put forward as potential bidders, including the Flanders-based cable operator Telenet, along with Voo, Telenet's counterpart in the French-speaking Wallonia region. Both firms already have MVNO agreements in their respective areas of operation. They could make individual bids for the new licence, or consider a joint submission. However the existing operators--Belgacom unit Proximus, France Telecom's Mobistar and Dutch group KPN's Base--are banned from becoming involved.
Additionally, the Belgium Economy Ministry plans to auction a range of frequencies for both GSM and UMTS services before the end of the year; 5MHz of spectrum in the 2.1GHz range, suitable for 3G services, and a further 5MHz in the 900MHz GSM band are to be made available.
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