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Belgian telecom investments up 49% in 2013

Investments in the Belgian telecom market increased 49.2 percent in 2013 to EUR 1.87 billion, according to annual statistics from the regulator BIPT. Two-thirds of the increase was due to the sale of licences for the 800 MHz band. 

The increased investment comes as the market deals with a structural decline in revenues, started in 2011. Revenues fell 3.9 percent last year to EUR 7.26 billion. The drop was due mainly to the wholesale segment, while retail revenues were largely stable, at EUR 6.15 billion. Voice revenues fell both in the fixed (-2.9%) and mobile (-4.6%) markets, but this was offset by growth in broadband, up 1.5 percent in fixed and 1.9 percent in mobile. 

The annual report also shows a drop in the number Sim cards in the market, of 1.9 percent among the three network operators and 18.2 percent among virtual operators. Postpaid increased its share of the market to 59.5 percent of Sims from 56 percent in 2012. Including M2M, the mobile market grew by 1.7 percent to 13.25 million Sims at the end of 2013. 

Voice traffic rose by one minute per active Sim to an average 102 minutes per month, and SMS traffic was up by five messages to an average 176 per month per Sim. Data traffic nearly doubled to an average 135 MB per month (MVNOs excluded). The amount of mobile numbers ported rose by 23 percent last year to around 1.2 million. 

According to BIPT, mobile broadband grew by around 40 percent in 2013 to some 5 million users. This is equal to a penetration of 45.7 percent, still below the EU average of 62.4 percent. The regulator earlier published a report with a number of recommendations on stimulating the mobile data market. 

In terms of fixed broadband, Belgium ranks better, with the sixth-highest penetration in the EU at 33.6 percent. Just over half (51%) of connections are over cable, and DSL has 48.7 percent of the market. Traffic over fixed networks fell by 7 percent in 2013, due in part to the number of active lines dropping by around 50,000 to 4.6 million. Fixed line number porting dropped by 23 percent to almost 300,000 lines. 

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