The Belgian telecoms market is regulated, the BIPT being the regulatory body. The BIPT performs market analyses following which obligations can be imposed on dominant operators on the market, such as the obligation to provide access to their infrastructures for other operators.
In the case of the broadband market Proximus, Telenet, Voo and Brutélé were designated as operators having significant market power (SMP) in the BIPT Decision of 29 June 2018 regarding the analysis of the broadband and television broadcasting markets. In that capacity those operators are subject to a number of conditions, including price control. In case of Proximus the regulation applies to its copper and fibre network.
More information about the measures imposed on Proximus regarding its fibre network can be found in the section on the regulation by the BIPT.
Currently there is no general fibre network regulation imposing requirements regarding the type of fibre infrastructure that should be rolled out. Telecom operators are free to roll out the network of their choice, unless they have been designated as an SMP operator and associated specific obligations have been imposed on them. That is currently not the case, which means that no specific obligations have been imposed on Proximus (SMP operator) regarding the architecture of its fibre network.
In principle operators are free to set their own prices unless the BIPT has designated them as operators having significant market power (see description here) and imposed the price control obligation on them. This price control always applies to the wholesale market (the tariffs for other operators who want to use the network), so not to the end-user tariffs.
In the context of fibre networks Proximus has been designated as an SMP operator and therefore its wholesale tariffs are regulated by the BIPT. More information can be found in the section on the regulation by the BIPT.
Yes, every operator has the right to roll out his own fibre network, in accordance with the Act of 21 March 1991. Obviously all necessary permit obligations and suchlike should be fulfilled. If this party wants to offer telecom services over its network it must register as a telecom operator with the BIPT. The telecom operator status entails (apart from a number of obligations) a number of rights, such as the right to use the public domain and the right to use walls and façades facing the public highway as a support. All of this is described in this section on this site.
It is true that rolling out several fibre networks can cause more inconvenience. Moreover, a single fibre network can be shared by various operators, even if the kind of access can differ depending on the kind of fibre network (also see the page on active and passive access).
However, the presence of several telecom networks can intensify competition. Indeed, in case of a single fibre network it is the operator who rolls out that fibre network who will determine the terms of access for other operators. Therefore, several infrastructures can improve competition and thus lower prices for the inhabitants of your town/city. It is also important to note that every telecom operator has the right to roll out his own fibre network, and to use the public domain and façades to that end, regardless of the fact whether a fibre network is present or not. It is up to the operator to decide whether there is a positive business case. However, in many areas (mostly partially urbanised and rural areas) operators are not inclined to “overbuild” (i.e. construct a network if another network is already present), because that lowers the profitability of the investment.
Fibre networks are the networks of the future, helping to achieve the European connectivity goals. Towns and cities have an important role to play to stimulate the roll-out of such networks. For the operator concerned rolling out a fibre network means a once-only extensive investment project, ensuring connectivity for the inhabitants of your town or city for many years to come. In that sense this type of roll-out is different from (reparation) works in other utilities, which are usually carried out at very specific locations and not over such a big area. The BIPT can only encourage towns or cities to take this into account and to be flexible when implementing the administrative procedures, even when several operators want to roll out a fibre network.
Any operator registered as such with the BIPT can invoke the provisions of the Act of 1991 to use the public domain. All of this is described in this section on this site.
An open fibre network is a fibre network over which other operators (other than the operator rolling out the fibre network) can offer their services. However, there are various degrees of “open”.
If the network allows passive access, which usually means that another operator has access to the fibre itself in a point-to-point fibre network, the other operator can use his own equipment, which means maximum flexibility and independence.
If the network only allows active access, for instance over point-to-multipoint fibre networks, the other operators are also restricted by the functionalities of the equipment belonging to the operator offering the network and by the choices he makes regarding the offer. Therefore in case of active access another operator has less room for differentiation, which is less favourable for competitiveness.
More information about the difference between active and passive access can be found on the page about sharing fibre infrastructure.
In principle every operator has the right to roll out his fibre network, and to use the public domain and the façades for that purpose. Therefore, the roll-out of a second fibre network cannot be refused for the sole reason that a fibre network is already present.
Even though this results in temporary inconvenience due to extra work in the street, plural telecom networks do have positive effects on competition.
In general, the tendency among operators to overbuild (constructing a network if a network is already present) is less pronounced because it lowers the profitability. However, this choice is up to the operator alone.
The Act of 13 June 2005 on electronic communications and the Act of 21 March 1991 on the reform of certain economic public companies grant a number of rights specifically to telecom operators and also impose a number of obligations. For instance, each operator has the right to use the public domain or to install cables on façades. More information can be found on the page about the rights of telecom operators.
The most important competent bodies are the local authorities, the road authorities and the regional bodies that issue permits.
The BIPT has listed the competent bodies. This list is not exhaustive.