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.
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
1GB2GB (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?