« The Development of 4G seems possible within the framework of the ordinance, provided that certain efforts are made by the operators » (http://www.weblex.irisnet.be/Data/Crb/Biq/2012-13/00014/images.pdf p. 15) said Minister Huytebroeck in the Parliament 15 days ago. Last July, the Minister emphasised that she wasn´t worried about the deployment of 4G in Brussels (http://evelyne.huytebroeck.be/spip.php?page=article&id_article=1180&lang=fr). During the bilateral meetings held between the Minister´s staff and the operators, however, the message was unanimous: in the current situation, a 4G deployment is not possible, and the operators are doing everything in their power to guarantee the present network.
No 4G in Brussels, and the Minister knew it
Following the entry into effect of the 2007 ordinance, the only way to have legal and technical certainty for the operators faced with this cumulative standard was to create four quotas of 25 % of this standard: i.e. 25 % for each of 3 existing mobile operators and 25 % for… TELENET, ASTRID, BUCD, the STIB, the SNCB, ClearWire (making things a bit crowded for that final 25 %!). De facto this turned the Brussels cumulative 3V/m standard into a standard of 1.5V/m, and – given the number of existing or future operators on the last 25% – it offers no guarantee that this standard will be respected.
A cumulative standard is in principle one that prevents any deployment of new antennas in zones close to already existing antennas. In Brussels, naturally, space is limited, so finding places that correspond to the needs of the population in terms of coverage and mobile capacity AND which are not close to existing sites is proving simply impossible. Which brings us to the heart of the problem that the Minister would prefer to ignore: in the current situation of such a strict and cumulative standard, the operators have already reached the legal limits with the 2G and 3G technologies . . .
Eliminating 2G: the wrong good idea
The Minister explains that it would be possible to deploy technology 4G by phasing out the 2G technology. Eliminating a supposedly obsolete technology would make room for a more modern technology that still has a bright future ahead of it. Is the Minister aware that around 60% of present-day mobile telephones are only compatible with 2G technology? A large part of the population has neither the need nor the means to purchase a Smartphone. If one were to follow the Minister´s reasoning: either the government subsidises to a greater or lesser extent the purchase of Smartphones for all those consumers, or 50 to 60% of the Brussels population will no longer be able to use their mobile phones. Moreover, firstly, the operators paid dearly to purchase their 2G licences and have obligations to use these frequencies and, secondly, the operators are using these 2G frequencies to take the pressure off their 3G network in cases of overload. So there is really no easy way to get rid of 2G technology – and the Minister knows it.
The strictest standard in the world – which hasn´t reassured the inhabitants at all
For years the Minister has been saying that Brussels has the strictest emission standard in the world, which is altogether true. Yet, as a result, even this extremely strict standard isn’t enough for the inhabitants. To maintain their network and their coverage, the operators have to find and construct new sites. But finding new sites is becoming increasingly complicated, without even considering the reality that on average it takes 400 days to obtain an urban development permit. And many environmental permits granted by the Region´s administration of the environment (IBGE) are subsequently challenged by the municipalities. If these sites respect the law, as the IBGE would seem to be implying by the fact of granting these environmental permits, why are they being contested?
The Minister noted that, despite the ordinance, the operators had succeeded in deploying their 2G and 3G networks. Indeed – but at the cost of how much time, legal uncertainties and technical uncertainties for the future? The operators are busy completing the regularisation of their existing sites to bring them into conformity with the Ordinance, and already numerous voices are being raised to protest a degradation of the network due to gaps in coverage. Paris has demonstrated (http://www.kpnbasefacts.be/network/a-charter-signed-between-the-city-of-paris-and-operators-paving-the-way-for-the-deployment-of-4g/ ) that 4G can be deployed while adequately protecting health – subject to the essential condition of taking off the dogmatic blinders. We invite the Minister to embark on such a path as well, so that Brussels can enjoy all of the technological benefits of the future.