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Mobile Internet Operators in Belgium

By andrew - July 20, 2010

Mobile Operators in Belgium

Mobile Operators in Belgium

Looking for more recent information? Check out our newest post on Mobile Internet in Belgium from May 2012!

In my last post, I wrote about Alison’s new phone, the HTC Desire. After bringing it home and setting it up, the next question was: which mobile operator should we use?

We hadn’t researched mobile operators before, as we hadn’t any need for fancy packages. A pay-as-you-go model was fine for years.  Now however, the new phone would also need  internet access. Suddenly we needed to learn what operators were available and what they offered for data plans (aka mobile internet, 3G).  So, with my usual penchant for details, I began to dig into what operators exist in Belgium and their offers for mobile internet on your smartphone.Before I list the operators, let me clarify a few things.  There are two types of mobile operators: those that run their own mobile networks (called Mobile Network Operators, MNOs) and those that use the mobile networks of other operators (called Mobile Virtual Network Operators or MVNOs). This shouldn’t cause you any problems, but I think it is important to understand whose network you are actually using, especially when you want to know if your camping spot in the Ardennes will have coverage!

Further, unlike fixed line networks, all mobile internet plans have monthly data usage caps ranging from 50MB to 2GB.  If you’re just checking out the occasional webpage, checking your email, twittering, etc then a plan that has 200MB is probably sufficient.  If you plan on visiting media rich websites with lots of images, flash, or videos, then the amount of data used will be much higher.  Make sure you keep an eye on your usage throughout the month to ensure you stay within your limit (usually there is an application for this). Pay attention to the costs if you exceed the included amount as well as what it will cost if you are roaming.

Finally, although mobile internet is becoming more advanced, the best case maximum download speed is typically between 5 and 7Mbps and uploading between 1 and 2Mbps (3G). In reality, the speeds will be much less, as they depend on where you are, the load on the network, and other environmental factors.  Because of the slower, more inconsistent speeds, I don’t expect mobile internet to be a replacement yet for broadband at home, although WiMAX (Clearwire) and next generation mobile technologies offer a glimpse towards a faster, more mobile future.

simcard for mobile phone

simcard for mobile phone

The following are the operators I’ve found in Belgium that offer data plans and a summary of their offers. There are many other operators (MVNOs) but a lot of them are not offering data plans.

  • Proximus (MNO) – Owned by Belgacom, Proximus provides many different prepaid and postpaid mobile packages which can suit just about anyone. Mobile internet costs range from 0.50 euros per 100KB without a data package, to 24.99 euros for a 500MB per month data package  (19.99 euros if you take the current special promo, although you’re locked in for a year).  If you exceed the 200MB or 500MB plan the per MB charge is 0.03 euros.
  • BASE (MNO) – Owned by KPN (incumbent dutch telephone operator), BASE provides different prepaid and postpaid plans for mobiles.  BASE offers mobile internet from 1 euro per 500KB to 10 euros for 500MB. If you exceed the 500MB, the per MB charge is 0.02 euros.
  • Mobistar (MNO) – Owned by Orange (France Telecom), Mobistar offers various prepaid and postpaid mobile plans. Their mobile internet packages range from 5 euros for 50MB to 30 euros for 500MB.  They also have a session based rate which is 0.50 euros per session plus 0.10 euros per MB.  All packages have a 0.10 euros per MB cost if you exceed the included volume.
  • Mobile Vikings (MVNO, BASE network) – A new operator that is focused on those who are really just interested in data. A monthly top-up of 15 euros will get you 1GB 2GB (new!) of internet and 1000 SMSs free; the 15 euros can then be used for making calls (although the call cost per minute is relatively high at 0.24 euros per minute). If you want to do a lot of calling, they have just launched a ‘Jumbo’ offer which is 40 euros a month and a 0.14 euros per minute cost per call (same amount of free internet and SMSs). Watch your usage though… if you exceed the free 2GB, the rate jumps to 2.50 euros per MB!
  • Scarlet (MVNO, Proximus network) – Owned by Belgacom, Scarlet re-launched their mobile offer using the Proximus network in February 2009. Mobile offer is free for those that combine it with other packages although you pay for what you use (in other words, there is no monthly top-up). Data is charged at 0.50 euros per MB.
  • Simyo (MVNO, BASE network) – Owned by KPN, online presence only, no subscriptions, low rates, but everything is pre-pay.  Internet access is charged at 1.99 euros per MB.
  • Cherry (MVNO, BASE network) – Owned by Mondial Telecom, they have an interesting offer that allows certain phones (mainly Nokia’s at the moment) to send/receive calls via WiFi and GSM networks, bridging VoIP and cellular technologies. They are working at extending this to Android and iPhones. Offers mobile internet at 0.50 euros per MB or 30 euros a month for 2GB
  • Telenet (MVNO, Mobistar network) – The first in Belgium to offer a TV-Phone-Internet-Mobile bundle, Telenet offers a number of pre- and postpaid mobile packages. Data can be pay as you go (for 1 euro per MB) or you can add 200MB of data usage per month for 10 euros; if you exceed 200MB you will be charged 0.15 euros for each extra MB.

If you are looking for an even longer list of mobile operators (regardless of whether or not they provide mobile internet), check out this list of MVNOs in Belgium.

If you have used any of the above operators feel free to share your experience in the comments below. Did I miss any?

Andrew
Andrew is our resident tech-geek and is normally found lurking behind the scenes on CheeseWeb.eu doing things with code that Alison finds mysterious. He comes out of hiding occasionally to write about history and technology. He is also part of the duo that produces Tech Brew, a podcast about beer and technology in Belgium. He loves castles, driving on narrow, twisty mountain roads and relaxing with a glass of peaty Scotch. Follow Andrew on Google+
Andrew
@scotiabank what's up with your online banking site today? Getting an access denied error... http://t.co/4lPt1P0iXm - 5 days ago
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5 comments

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Mobile Operators in Belgium | CheeseWeb: Travel, Photography and Expat Life in Belgium Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Comment by Andrew

    Andrew August 2, 2010 at 15:55

    Small update. Based on Belgacom’s Q2 finance call, it looks like Mobile Internet will be a focus in the coming quarters:

    The company’s CEO said Belgacom would now concentrate on selling its mobile products, especially mobile internet, which is a clear growth market in Belgium.

    http://www.totaltele.com

    Also, Mobile Vikings has just introduced a 12 euro, data-only offer for those of you with iPads or laptops you want to connect. Good deal if you’re on the go!

  3. Comment by Andrew

    Andrew September 6, 2010 at 15:56

    Just found out that Mobile Vikings has updated their offer to include 2GB of free internet with each top-up! A very compelling offer for those who want to surf while they walk :)

  4. Comment by Frank

    Frank October 26, 2010 at 12:06

    Please note that the Base 3G network is not as wide spread as the Proximus/Mobistar one. Furthermore, it’s 500kbps (in progress of upgrading to 1Mbps), while the other two are 7Mbps.

    It also seems that your prices for Proximus are old: the cheapest option is 4.12 eur for 1GB, the most expensive is 42.95 for 5GB (source: http://business.proximus.be/en/Surf_Laptop_National/MIL_Rates.html)

    • Comment by Andrew

      Andrew October 28, 2010 at 11:45

      Hi Frank,

      Thanks for stopping by! Obviously the prices and packages will change over time, but I will try to come back to this occasionally to check on things. Thanks for taking the time to fact check! Note that I focused on the residential prices, not the business prices.

      You are correct that the Base 3G network is not as widespread, but from what I’ve read they are working on it. There is good 2G coverage throughout the country though, which when combined with 3G coverage in the main cities is enough for most mobile computing needs.

      Interesting point about the speed of the networks. Not that I want to defend one network over the other, but I will generalize and say that for most people I don’t think they will notice a difference. Although there is a theoretical benefit to the Proximus and Mobistar 3G networks, in reality the actual network speed is dependent on where you are, how fast you’re moving, the current load on the node, etc. I haven’t done any actual tests, but would be interested to know more if you have it.

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