BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian telecoms operator Belgacom launched a commercial high-speed mobile network in Brussels On Tuesday, ending months of regulatory wrangling which left the Belgian and European capital without fast data access.
A new law that take effect in March eases environmental rules regulating radio emissions in the capital. The rules were among the strictest in the world and made the roll-out of fourth generation (4G) mobile services impossible.
Not being able to tap the lucrative Brussels market, which with its many European institutions and corporate headquarters generates about 25 percent of the data traffic in the country, was a major brake on the 4G ambitions of the mobile providers.
"Brussels is very important for us as there are 1.1 million inhabitants and 300,000 commuters, the European institutions and NATO, and having 4G here is very important," Belgacom Chief Executive Dominique Leroy told a news conference in Brussels.
Belgacom's 4G network will initially only cover the Brussels suburbs. A full roll-out of the fast networks, which offer speeds some four times faster than current technology, will start once the new law is in place and will take until the end of 2015 to complete.
KPN's BASE, the only Belgian operator apart from Belgacom with a commercial 4G network in place, was not available to comment on when it would launch services in the capital.
Mobistar, Belgium's second largest mobile phone operator, has not yet launched a commercial 4G network.
4G services enable ultra-fast mobile data traffic, allowing users for example to watch television on smartphones, tablets or laptops at a quality similar to that of a fixed line.
Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek