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Belgian consumers would benefit from fourth telecoms provider, study finds
The arrival of a fourth player in the telecoms market, alongside Telenet, Proximus and Orange, could bring down the prices of mobile communications, internet or television by 13%, according to a study commissioned by the consultative committee and reported in De Morgen newspaper on Wednesday.
Frequencies for the 5G network will be made available as planned but the federal government wants to reserve part of the network for a potential new player in order to open up the market and lower prices for consumers.
At a committee meeting in February, the federal minister for telecoms, Petra De Sutter, tabled a plan for opening up the market to a fourth operator, but her proposal was met with opposition on both sides of the language divide. On the one hand, Flanders fears a distortion of competition. On the other, the Francophone side is concerned about the effects the new technology may have on health and the environment. De Sutter therefore commissioned a study on these effects.
The study shows that a fourth operator would be advantageous to consumers. A price war – an expected consequence of a new major player entering the market - could cause prices to fall by 13%. In addition, these favourable prices would potentially convince more people to connect, with an estimated rise of 10% in take-up.
However, the concerns mentioned back in February remain justified. The gains from mobile services would in turn fall by 40% and the energy bill would rise by 15%, as would airwave emissions. In Brussels, where the standards are extremely strict, this is a problem.
"I respect the autonomy of the regions,” acknowledged De Sutter. “If a region absolutely does not want a fourth operator, then progress remains blocked."
"However, this is a unique opportunity as the auction sets the spectrum allocation for 20 years,” she added. “If we now close the door to a fourth actor, then we are de facto installing a ‘triopoly’."