Ambitions for Belgium to have a viable fourth mobile operator have been quashed as cable operators Telenet and Voo returned a spectrum licence they acquired together in 2011.
According to reports in Belgian newspapers De Tijd and L’Echo, the two companies feel it is not possible to deploy a profitable network under current regulations.
Telenet and Voo formed a joint venture to acquire a 3G licence in Belgium, but only paid €21.5 million of the €71.5 million total cost for the licence. They were fined by the country’s communications regulator BIPT last year for their failure to rollout a network using the frequencies.
Telenet recently decided to go down the MVNO route, agreeing to extend its contract to use Mobistar’s network until 2017.
Belgacom’s Proximus is the largest mobile operator in Belgium with around 5.3 million connections at the end of the first quarter, according to GSMA Intelligence figures. Orange-owned Mobistar is close behind with 5.2 million connections, while KPN-owned BASE has 3.4 million connections.
The Belgian government had hoped to boost competition in the mobile market with the entry of a fourth operator. IDC analyst John Delaney tweeted that “Belgium’s Telenet/Voo saga gives further weight to the argument that most European markets can’t comfortably sustain four mobile operators.”
In November last year, the three incumbents secured 4G licences for just €120 million per licence. The three companies faced no competitors in the auction for the 800 MHz spectrum which achieved the minimum price set by BIPT.