The failures of mobile communications in Brussels: operators encourage regional authorities to take action

In the press release it issued today, BECI points the finger at the mobile telephone operators, highlighting their responsibility for the progressive deterioration in the quality of the mobile networks in Brussels. The response from the mobile telephone operators is that this issue must be looked at from a different angle. If there is a genuine risk of the mobile networks deteriorating in Brussels, it is chiefly the fault of the regional authorities who have to issue planning permission.

Several months ago, the operators began the process of making the  mobile networks compliant with the Brussels decree which imposes adherence to the 3V/m standard. This  is the strictest standard in the world.

BECI is not mistaken in its observation that the initial effects of the standard are impacting  the quality of the mobile networks in Brussels. Fortunately, this impact is still moderate because the antennae compliance process will be spread over several years. The deterioration of the networks is therefore in danger of intensifying over time and the true impact will not be known until 2013 at the earliest…  

Most of the antenna sites in Brussels will need to be adapted: either the power of the antennae will have to be reduced, meaning that sites will have to be added nearby to fill the gaps in coverage this causes and thus maintain the quality of the current network; or the antennae will have to be moved or raised.    All of this will require hundreds of planning permits which the planning permission department will have to process and supply.

However, having applied a moratorium of 18 months on the processing of operator permits, the planning permission department does not have enough staff to manage the massive number of files it is receiving.   Before the moratorium it took on average almost 400 days for the department to issue a permit.  Subsequent to the operators’ concerns, the Brussels Government decided to take on four additional members of staff to process these requests, but these people will not be truly operational until a few months’ time.  

Meanwhile, the mobile operators are going all out to foster the development of technologies of the future in Belgium – as evidenced by their recent investments in the acquisition of 4G licences – and they fear that Brussels is seriously behind on this issue in comparison to other Belgian and European metropolises.    In the current context, it will also be very difficult for the operators to deploy their 4G networks in the capital.  

At present, the operators can only encourage the planning permission department to do all it can to prevent the scenarios envisaged by BECI from becoming a reality.

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