Belgium’s first 5G auction is complete. Five operators collectively paid €1.2 billion for the right to provide 5G. Citymesh is a new contender. The organization will compete with Proximus, Orange and Telenet, three established operators.

5G operators need permission. There’s not a single place in the world where anyone can erect a mast and send signals. That right is sold by governments in Europe and the United States. Organizations buy a licence to transmit 5G signals on one of three suitable frequency bands: 700MHz, 1400MHz and 3600MHz.

In 2016, the European Commission asked all member states to auction their frequency bands as soon as possible. Preferably before 2021, so that all of Europe can be covered with 5G by 2030. Only five member states met the deadline. The rest sold two of the three bands, but had yet to lose the third.

Belgium proved to be an exception. Here, not a single band was auctioned. Now, the country is changing gears. The auction of the 700MHz and 3600MHz bands was recently completed. Five operators collectively paid €1.2 billion for a licence.

Familiar faces

Among the bidders are Proximus, Telenet and Orange Belgium. The three are well-known in the industry. State-owned Proximus owns the national fiber optic network. It’s been providing 5G since 2020. In the past two years, Telenet and Orange Belgium made the tech available as well.

The operators worked with a temporary licence issued by the BIPT (Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications). The BIPT regulates 5G in Belgium. The licence gave permission for frequencies between 3600MHz and 3800MHz. This block is only suitable for short waves and distances. Nationwide coverage depends on lower frequencies, including 700MHz. Since this block has now been auctioned off, customers can shortly count on more coverage.

Belgium isn’t all the way there yet. The auction of the third 5G frequency band (1400MHz) will take place at a later date. BIPT did not provide a date.

New player

In addition to the well-known operators, a fresh face participated in the auction. At the end of March, BIPT announced that an anonymous player was interested in bands for 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G. In the meantime, the identity of the company has been revealed.

Citymesh secured five frequency bands. Together, the bands provide all the necessities to enter the mobile market. 49 percent of the company is owned by RCS & RDS NV. The largest shareholder of RCS is Digi Communications, a Romanian telecom company.