Proximus and Orange Belgium to set up unified mobile network to speed 5G

12 July 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Orange Belgium and Proximus – formerly Belgacom – are to set up a joint company to run their mobile networks.

The move, which will cost €130 million over three years, will speed up 5G roll-out in the country, say the companies, but it will also combine existing networks for 2G, 3G and 4G services.

Michaël Trabbia (pictured, left), CEO of Orange Belgium, said: “The timing of this mobile access network sharing agreement is important as it will allow us to accelerate 5G roll-out, while bringing significant environmental benefits by reducing the combined energy consumption by 20%.”

His counterpart at Proximus, Dominique Leroy (pictured, right), said: “It will allow us to embark on a faster and broader 5G roll-out while improving mobile network capacity and coverage to the benefit of our customers and while keeping a strong and differentiated customer experience. It will help us to realise operational cost efficiencies that will enable us to sustain future networks roll-out and fuel digital investments.”

The two companies will continue to run independent, competing services. Both companies will continue to have full control over their own spectrum assets and operate their core networks independently to ensure a service and customer experience differentiation, they said.

So far the two have done no more than signed term sheets, but they aim to reach a full contract by the end of 2019. “The signing of the term sheet is an important step in reaching a final mobile access network sharing agreement between Proximus and Orange Belgium,” said Leroy.

They said the shared network will improve coverage, with the consolidated number of mobile sites expected to be about 20% higher compared to each operator’s current standalone radio access network (RAN).

They said the move will reduce total energy consumption by the RAN by about 20%. Orange Belgium said the cumulative savings in operational and capital expenditure would be €300 million over 10 years.

“Mobile access network sharing is a trend in Europe which benefits consumers, as it enables more efficient investments to cope with the increasing data consumption,” said Trabbia.

The companies said the combination will allow them “to sustain the growing investment needs in network capacity, driven by continued exponential data growth, while also accelerating 5G roll-out and improving service quality”.

The next step is for dedicated teams from both operators to define the project in more detail, including the organisational model of the new joint venture, to reach a final network sharing agreement by the end of the year.

The purpose is to start the preparatory work in the first quarter of 2020, they said.