Summary of broadband development in Belgium
Digital Belgium – Plan for Ultrafast Internet in Belgium 2015–2020 outlines the digital vision for Belgium based on four action areas and 17 measures. The plan stimulates the roll-out of ultrafast internet by:
- providing a coherent, stable framework for encouraging continued network investment,
- providing NGA for everyone via a mix of technologies,
- lowering costs for broadband development, and
- enhancing the dynamics in the digital ecosystem by stimulating innovation, involvement, trust and competition.
National and regional broadband strategy and policy
- The Minister of the Digital Agenda, Telecom and Postal Services, in charge of Administrative Simplification, Prevention of Social Security Fraud, the Protection of Privacy and the North Sea, is responsible for issues concerning the Digital Agenda and Telecom.
- The FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-employed and Energy is the federal public service in charge of the economic policy in Belgium. Through its Directorate-General for Economic Regulation (Division Telecommunication and Information Society), the FPS supports the Belgian telecommunication sector in developing and implementing regulations and in stimulating innovation.
- The Belgian Institute for Postal services and Telecommunications (BIPT) is the regulator for electronic communications. It has among others the task to promote competition, to contribute to the development of the internal market and to protect the users' interests. BIPT is involved in many aspects of the national broadband strategy. It especially gathers, analyses and presents information on the supply of broadband services, in order to stimulate the roll out of broadband networks and to identify the remaining white areas.
- Wallonia: the Agence du Numérique (AdN) is a limited liability company under public law. It succeeded in 2015 to the Agence Wallonne des Télécommunications (AWT), in charge of ICT development in Wallonia since 1999. The Agence du Numérique is in charge of putting into operation the very ambitious strategy for Digital Wallonia, set up by the Walloon government end of 2015 to fill the gap in digital development -including broadband networks- and help the region in its digital transformation.
Main aims for broadband development
Digital Belgium – Plan for Ultrafast Internet in Belgium 2015–2020 states that by 2020 at least half of the connections in Belgium must achieve Internet speeds of 1 Gbps. Mobile broadband technologies, such as 4G and LTE Advanced, must be rolled out as soon as possible across the entire Belgian territory. Moreover, a proactive 5G framework needs to be created to ensure Belgium is in the lead for stimulating the Internet of Things.
Digital Wallonia: Wallonia’s digital strategy, platform and brand has been developed by the Agence du Numérique. Digital Wallonia sets the framework for all of the Walloon Government’s actions in terms of Wallonia’s digital transformation. With over EUR 500 million harnessed over four years for its implementation, Digital Wallonia's strategic plan for broadband development is part of the Digital Territory pillar (one of the 5 pillars of the DW strategy – total of 50 actions). It is an ambitious digital planning policy across the territory to boost its attractiveness and competitiveness, both on the network infrastructure (FTTH-FTTB) and on mobile broadband technologies, such as 4G and LTE (preparing the launching of 5G). It aims to eventually develop hybrid solutions to ensure a full connectivity and increase the speed access for users with priority given to the white areas and the business parks. A specific mapping of the broadband connectivity of the 286 public business parks has been carried out by Digital Wallonia to assist the regional government in defining future investments in relation to the Telecom operator in the education, eHealth and industry and construction market.
Measures for broadband development
Broadband mapping: The Belgian Institute for Postal services and Telecommunications (BIPT) provides a mapping system for broadband (per technology) showing where Internet access is available at a particular speed. In this way, areas where high-performance infrastructure is not yet present (white areas) and additional measures are necessary can be identified.
In order to achieve universal NGA coverage by 2020, a white areas action plan has been launched by the Minister for the Digital Agenda, in consultation with the municipalities concerned, regional authorities and operators. The actions include measures to reduce the cost of broadband deployment in the context of the implementation of Directive 2014/61/EU, to stimulate investment in areas where there is still no infrastructure and the combination of different access technologies including satellite and an increase in the requirements of mobile coverage. As regards the stimulation of investments, BIPT has adopted a relaxation of the regulation of broadband markets which would allow operators that have not yet reached a 30 Mbps network in the white zones to be able to deploy or modernise their network without being regulated in this area.
Furthermore, the Flemish government announced plans to invest in FTTH and has asked the leading telecommunications operators for proposals for developing their infrastructures towards a long term future-proof network.
There are mapping tools with infrastructure information provided on the regional level. An example is the KLIP – Kabel en Leiding Informatie Portal database in Flanders, which provides relevant information for planning, permit applicants, cable and pipeline operators as well as public administration. A similar portal exists at federal scale, called KLIM-CICC - Contact federal Informations Câbles et Conduites. Here, when planning works, one can either check whether there are any installations and pipelines for the transport of hazardous products or high-voltage cables as well as other cables or lines nearby, or announce the works to the cable operators and cable operators who will provide all necessary information.
The Walloon Region also has its own web-enabled portal to assist in the coordination of works planning, called Powalco. Digital Wallonia launched a new regional alert platform for broadband connectivity problems: Digital Wallonia Connect. This platform was developed with the cooperation of the three mobile Telecom operators in the frame of the “ToP” agreement.
The Walloon government set up a specific agreement with the national telecom operator, namely “ToP” agreement (for Tax on Pylons). Thanks to this agreement, the Region (but also the local authorities) do not tax the pylons anymore and in exchange, each operator agreed to invest up to EUR 20 million each (EUR 60 million total) from 2017 to 2019 with 3 main goals:
- Fulfilling the coverage of the Walloon territory in broadband mobile connectivity, especially targeting the white zones,
- focusing on Smart Regional projects such as fulfilling the IoT network on the territory, and
- investing in research and development of new technologies (hybrid solutions such as TESSARES) .
The Walloon government also dedicated a budget of EUR 50 million specifically for finalising the broadband connectivity of Business parks installed in white zones, in its Regional Investment Plan (Fiche 11 du P.W.I. - Plan Wallon d'Investissements).
Data on broadband development and technologies in Belgium
For the latest data on broadband coverage, subscriptions and penetrations, coverage of different broadband technologies and costs check the scoreboard reports and the country reports of the Digital Economy & Society Index (DESI).
Spectrum assignments for wireless broadband
For details on harmonised spectrum assignments consult the study on spectrum assignments in the EU.
National publications and press documents
- Digital Belgium – Plan for Ultrafast Internet in Belgium 2015-2020
- Digital Belgium online platform
- Digital Wallonia Website
- Digital Wallonia Strategy
- Study on National Broadband Plans in the EU-28
- Guide to High-Speed Broadband Investment
- Broadband Connectivity Reports and Analyses
- Europe's Digital Progress Report 2017
- Fixed broadband prices in Europe 2017
- Study on broadband coverage in Europe 2017