Belgian 3G launch subject to further delays

The Belgian government is likely to agree to a request from the country's three mobile operators to delay, for the second time,...

The Belgian government is likely to agree to a request from the country's three mobile operators to delay, for the second time, the launch of 3G mobile broadband services.

3G is expected to be launched in Belgium in December 2004, 15 months later than had been planned.

Belgian Telecommunications Minister Rik Daems told reporters that the telecom regulator, the Belgian Institute for Post and Telecommunications (BIPT), had already accepted the request by the operators, and that he would probably follow the agency's advice if the present situation in the country does not change.

In February the minister granted the operators, Base NV/SA, Mobistar and Proximus, a one-year delay until September 2003 after the companies had complained about problems in obtaining the necessary equipment to build their networks and permits for their base stations, as well as handsets that work properly. These problems have not yet been resolved, according to the operators.

Daems plans to discuss a proposed European Union (EU) coordination scheme for postponing 3G services when telecom ministers from the member states meet on 4 December, a BIPT spokesman said.

"The minister will try to seek a coordinated approach at EU level," the spokesman said. The outcome of this discussion, he said, would probably have an influence on whether the minister grants another delay and, if so, under what conditions.

Currently, each EU government sets its own policies for 3G licences and postponements.

Base is owned by KPN Mobile of the Netherlands and Mobistar by France Télécom. Proximus is the brand name of a joint venture between Belgacom Mobile and Vodafone Group.

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