Is Belgium “Hell or Paradise” when it comes to the attractiveness of investment in the telecommunications sector? This was the question posed to the General Assembly of the Platform Telecom Operators & Service Providers, when the results of a study by WIK Consult were presented on 18 June 2013. After the presentation, representatives from BIPT, President of the Platform, the Cabinet of the Minister of Economy, FOD Econ, WIK and BELTUG all took part in a panel discussion.
Below are the action plan put together based on the WIK study, and BELTUG’s reaction to the study.
Action plan with recommendations from WIK
The action plan seeks to address the existing barriers to investment that were identified in the study. Its aim is to reduce the costs of deploying new networks and innovating new services through a better telecoms infrastructure that will contribute to economic growth - at a moment when it is urgently needed.
The action plan proposes the following measures:
- Facilitate the re-use and sharing of existing physical infrastructure, notably ducts; the deployment of fibre; and the deployment and sharing of in-building, high-speed-ready infrastructure.
- Address problems in the regulation of wholesale products in order to improve competition and choice in broadband markets, especially for business communications services; and problems related to the pricing of unbundled local access and bitstreams.
- Review the high and varying emission norms for mobile antennas; and the high taxes on mobile antennas and masts.
- Reduce barriers to the deployment of mobile base stations; inconsistencies resulting from overlapping competencies of the Federal State, Communities and Regions; and the contributions of telecoms operators to the BIPT to the level of regulatory costs.
- Raise awareness about the importance of, and progress in, broadband connectivity through a broadband performance index.
BELTUG point of view with regard to the study
In BELTUG’s opinion, the study is too focused on the residential market, and there is little attention paid to the potential economic growth the business market could provide in the correct environment. It is also too optimistic about the situation in Belgium, indicating that everything requested by the European Commission for the roll out of broadband networks for 2015 is already in place (Belgian residential market).
In the panel discussion, BELTUG focused on:
- The current, continuing lack of competition. While there are many operators, each focuses on a different market. Only one operator has global coverage in Belgium (Belgacom). The others have established themselves in niches. BELTUG has already demonstrated this issue in a study carried out in 2011.
- Price cuts for mobile data for the residential market are only sparsely implemented in the business market. This is why BELTUG has a created its mobile data index, and recommends business users request and insist upon decreases.
Consequently, BELTUG calls for:
- The use of the Belgacom network by other operators at a ‘correct’ value (price and service), which is definitely not the case at the moment.
- Reduced barriers for switching to another mobile operator for machine-to-machine communications (e.g. "white" SIM cards or programmable remote SIM cards).
BELTUG (together with INTUG) also supports the European-level efforts to define specific and harmonised access services for the business market so that those services can be implemented in Belgium.