Belgian TV operators acquire 3G licence

Belgian cable operator Telenet has partnered with the cable consortium group Tecteo to acquire Belgium’s fourth 3G mobile licence.

Ten years after Belgium’s 3G spectrum auction, which saw major operators Belgacom, KPN and Mobistar pay €150 million for 3G capability, the €71.5 million, 10-year agreement announced yesterday is the minimum price Telenet and Tecteo could have paid considering they were the only bidders. In 2001, Belgium did offer a fourth mobile licence but it did not attract enough bidders at the time.

Telenet offers services in television, internet and fixed-line telephony services, mainly in the northern part of Belgium which is predominantly Dutch speaking. The company originally entered the telecoms space in 2006 as an MVNO.

“Due to a lack of intense mobile data competition between existing mobile operators, mobile broadband penetration continues to lag behind the European average,” said Telenet. “Today’s joint bid to acquire mobile spectrum shows Telnet’s commitment to invest in order to further improve the competitiveness of the Belgian telecoms market.”

The Tecteo group, which operates under the Voo brand, is mainly active in the southern part of the country with a French-speaking customer base. The two companies compete with Belgacom’s IPTV offering – a service which is proving a strong challenger to digital TV in the region.

According to market reports, incumbent operator Belgacom had an IPTV customer base of 975,000 at the end of 2010, constituting 32% of Belgium’s digital TV market. Telenet’s mobile offering is limited and is operated through Mobistar’s network, but this is sure to expand with its new 3G service.

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