Summary of broadband development in Belgium
The national plan for fixed and mobile broadband, announced in April 2021, will eliminate the remaining white areas where high speed services are unavailable and covers the period 2022-2024. It supports the achievement of the European gigabit connectivity 2025 targets.
National and regional broadband strategy and policy
- The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration, Public Enterprises, Telecommunication and the Postal Services is responsible for issues concerning Telecom, and together with the Secretary of State of Digitalisation both are responsible for issues concerning the Digital Agenda.
- The FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-employed and Energy is the federal public service in charge of the economic policy in Belgium. 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. The BIPT launched the website www.fibreinfo.be informing about fibre roll-out. It answers the questions of end users, operators, municipalities and property owners about the technology, the possibilities, the rights and obligations etc. regarding fibre.
- Wallonia: the Agence du Numérique (AdN) is a limited liability company under public law, in charge of ICT development in Wallonia. The Agence du Numérique is in charge of putting into operation the strategy for Digital Wallonia 2019-2024, set up by the Walloon government 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 sets five priorities:
- Digital infrastructure,
- Digital confidence and digital security,
- Digital government,
- Digital economy, and
- Digital skills and jobs.
Belgium’s Federal Council of Ministers launched on 30 April 2021 a national plan for fixed and mobile broadband, which is to eliminate the remaining white areas where high speed services are unavailable (estimated 138.000 households). Under the plan, the white areas (estimated 2% of territory) will be mapped as a first step to facilitating the deployment of high speed services, for example by stimulating investment by operators. In addition, a special government unit with responsibility for implementing the plan and monitoring progress will be set up, while a Broadband Competence Office will deal with all relevant issues relating to the cooperation between public and private stakeholders and support implementation of the EU Connectivity Toolbox. The plan is built around 5 axes:
- mapping network coverage and identifying white areas,
- facilitating the rollout of broadband by creating a temporary national BCO that will coordinate more extensively the cooperation between public authorities and operators or investors, as well as the implementation of the EU Connectivity Toolbox,
- encouraging investment in the white areas without fast internet,
- creating support for fibre and 5G rollout through the web site about 5G www.over5g.be,
- the establishment of a cell Broadband within the FPS Economy.
By reducing administrative burdens and lowering roll-out costs of network operators, the government is stimulating the roll-out of new broadband technologies (fibre, LTE advanced, 5G). For example, every house that is being built or renovated in the future will need to be fibre ready. Moreover, a proactive 5G framework is to ensure Belgium is ready when the Internet-of-everything is rolled out.
The Belgian government commits to reducing administrative burdens and costs of deployment of ICT infrastructures. The strategy is under review by the new government in cooperation with a number of industry stakeholders (the Digital Minds).
Digital Wallonia 2019-2024 sets the framework for the Walloon Government’s actions in terms of Wallonia’s digital transformation. Digital Wallonia is structured around eight cross-disciplinary challenges that form its structured framework and its key elements for all the decisions made and the measures taken within the five themes of Digital Wallonia. One of the challenges is Giga Region - Super-fast broadband for everyone as the bedrock of digital initiatives.
Measures for broadband development
Roadmap to implement the Connectivity Toolbox: Belgium announced plans to assess the need for permit exemptions, identify opportunities to further digitalise permit application procedures, provide guidance to local entities that would not apply cost-based fees, further improve the digital availability of information, mainly by strengthening synergies between different sources, and encourage access to the physical infrastructure of public bodies.
Recovery and Resilience Plan: the plan includes investments and key reforms related to connectivity. At federal level, Belgium approved a national plan for fixed and mobile broadband. It includes a mapping of connectivity, allowing the country to identify potential white areas and to boost investments in these areas.
The federal government decided also to invest EUR 41 million in the roll-out of fixed broadband internet in the so called white areas in the forthcoming years.
At regional level, all regions will consider modifying their electromagnetic fields (EMF) emission norms, which are currently an obstacle to 5G rollout, especially in Wallonia and in the Brussels region. EUR 19.5 million will be dedicated to supporting the deployment of FTTH in the German-speaking community. Wallonia will also invest in connecting business parks and schools (EUR 70.3 million).
Broadband mapping: The 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 addition to the mobile and broadband maps, the BIPT will also develop a dedicated FTTH fibre map.
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: 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.
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 European 5G Observatory.
National and EU publications and press documents
- Digital Belgium
- fibreinfo - central information point about fibre roll-out in Belgium
- Digital Wallonia Strategy 2019-2024
- Study on National Broadband Plans
- Guide to High-Speed Broadband Investment
- Broadband Connectivity Reports and Analyses
- Mobile and fixed broadband prices in Europe
- Study on broadband coverage
- Alles over 5G