Belgacom’s VDSL vectoring complementing slow FttH roll out

Telecom market overview

The total turnover of the Belgian telecom market has risen slowly in recent years largely as a result of a better performing broadcasting sector, which has offset declining revenue from the mobile and fixed-voice sectors. Effective competition between Belgacom and the cablecos has also resulted in cheaper offerings for bundled services. Despite the ongoing economic difficulties and liquidity issues, investment in telecom networks – partly encouraged by government stimulus funds – has grown year-on-year. Alternative operators have invested the largest proportion of the total. Further investment in 2013 and 2014 will be supported by anticipated spectrum auctions, as well as ongoing upgrades to mobile and fixed-line networks as operators seek to maintain satisfy customer demand for bandwidth and new services. Fixed telephony still forms more than half of the total, though its market share is declining steadily.

Broadband market

The government has promoted its SuperFastBelgium scheme based on a national FttH network, though developments remain slow. Open access to Belgacom’s fibre network would be complemented by measures to ensure that all new-build premises would be provisioned with ducts to enable fibre connections, while the right by all operators to install ducts above ground aims to reduce engineering costs by up to 80%. Belgacom has pursued a VDSL vectoring strategy to complement its limited FttH roll out, providing at least 50Mb/s services.

Key telecom parameters – 2010; 2013



2013 (e)

Subscribers by sector (million):
Fixed broadband subscribers 3.36 4.11
Mobile broadband 1.30 2.15
Mobile phone 12.7 13.38
Fixed-line telephony 4.64 4.45
Penetration by sector:
Fixed broadband 31% 47%
Mobile 118% 127%
Fixed-line 38% 36%

(Source: BuddeComm)

Market Highlights

  • Access to Belgium’s cable networks will enable operators to expand their bundled services, though there remains opposition from cablecos to opening up their networks to third parties.
  • Mobistar has embarked on its ‘SuperMobile 2013-2015’ investment programme, investing an additional €150 million to accelerate the roll-out of its LTE network.
  • In 2012 BASE launched its ‘Snow’ digital TV service, using KPN’s VDSL network. It includes fixed-line, TV and telephony services to complement existing bundled offerings.
  • In early 2013 KPN rebranded all of its Belgium operations under the BASE moniker.
  • Liberty Global in late 2012 made a US$2.5 billion bid to buy additional shares in Telenet: LG increased its stake to about 58% of Telenet shares.
  • Belgacom and its long-term hardware provider Alcatel-Lucent have developed VDSL2 vectoring technology, with commercial expansion planned through 2013.
  • Mobile broadband penetration in Belgium was about 3.5% in early 2009 and 17% by early 2013: this remains low in comparison with the EU average but should increase quickly to 2014 in the wake of anticipated spectrum auctions and operator upgrades to networks.
  • Net retail revenue from mobile data services continues to grow rapidly, offsetting declines from voice services. The share of mobile data to overall mobile revenue is also rising. 

BuddeComm’s annual publication, Belgium – Telecoms, IP Networks, Digital Media and Forecasts, provides a comprehensive overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications and digital media sectors of one of Europe’s smaller yet key markets, having close ties to telcos operating in larger neighbouring countries. The report includes regulator’s market data update, telcos’ financial and operating data to Q1 2013, market developments to May 2013.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Belgium – Telecoms, IP Networks, Digital Media and Forecasts



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