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Mobile Internet in Belgium – Update

By andrew - May 21, 2012 (Updated: July 14, 2015)

Mobile Internet in Belgium

Mobile Internet in Belgium

After two years, we’re revisiting  the options for mobile internet in Belgium. Using the internet via mobile devices has become more popular in the past few years and the options have become more varied. We’re taking a look at some current data plans and finding  ways to compare them.

It’s been almost two years since I first wrote about options for mobile internet in Belgium. There are now more people using their mobiles to check email, browse facebook, post on twitter, and more. In the past year alone, Belgian sales of smartphones, such as Apple’s iPhone, have increased to 1 in 3 of mobiles sold.

Further, people who have smartphones are now installing an increasing number of applications, many of which require access to the internet. Add in the burgeoning tablet market and our growing dependence on mobile internet access inevitably leads to the question: which subscription is best?

The answer is: it depends.

Comparing the mobile internet options in Belgium is like trying to compare apples and oranges (and pears, grapes, peaches, etc). Yes, they’re all round, but that’s where the similarities end. The best mobile internet subscription depends on you and your specific needs.

Do you just want to check your email or do you plan to upload photos to Facebook? Do you want to stream video or music? Do you call a lot of people? Do you send a lot of SMSes? Where do you access the internet most frequently? Do you have access to WiFi at home, the office,  the coffee shop?

You should also consider how your usage might change in the future. Once you have a smartphone with 200 applications installed, you might find the 50MB data plan you had for your less-than-smartphone is no longer sufficient.

The most important consideration may be how much you are willing to spend. So what to do?

Obviously, it is impossible for me to fine tune this post for every individual situation. Thus I’ve made some assumptions to provide a comparison of  the offers available in Belgium.

First, assuming you’re reading this article because you want to use a fair amount of data, I’ve decided to focus on plans with at least 500MB of included data.

I’ve also assumed you are buying an add-on to an existing calling plan; a discussion of the best calling plan could be the subject of another article. Full disclosure: we use both Mobile Vikings and Proximus (personal and business respectively).

Every operator and their offer is different, so, in the table below, I’ve reduced each offer down to a price per megabyte (MB). In preparing this information, I took into consideration the offers and web deals being promoted at the moment, assumed all prices include VAT, and did not look at the costs of activation or switching. This is a very quick comparison and does not incorporate any other benefits that may be associated with that operator.

Data gathered from company websites (May 20, 2012)

Looking purely at the cost per MB per month, Mobile Vikings has a clear advantage versus their nearest competitor, BASE’s 2GB offer, which is 67% more expensive. If you are concerned about minimizing costs, then Telenet’s discounted offer is perhaps the best for you at this moment. Of course these prices are subject to change!

Beyond price, the following are some other considerations for each operator:

  • Proximus (MNO, Belgacom) – Arguably the best 3G (mobile data) coverage in Belgium. Proximus’ strength is in their 3G coverage and bundling their Internet, TV, Phone, and mobile products. Also, with a bundle you can access their partnership with FON which gives you access to more than 400,000 hotspots around the world. Proximus is also investing in a next generation (LTE) network which promises even faster mobile internet speeds.
  • Mobistar (MNO, Orange) – Their mobile data network is only slightly behind that of Proximus. Mobistar also offers bundling. In addition, they offer Mobile TV, which could be a great option if you find yourself sitting on public transportation a lot. Mobistar also offers mobile packages including Facebook/Twitter/Netlog, so if those are your most frequently used applications, these packages are worth investigating.
  • BASE (MNO, KPN) – Although their 3G coverage is nowhere close to that of Proximus, continued investment has improved their coverage. BASE’s offer does not require a fixed contract, unlike some other plans.
  • Mobile Vikings (MVNO, BASE network) – Mobile Vikings’ offer has always included free data and SMS. Although they are not using the network with the best 3G coverage, they offer the best value: for a €15 top-up, you get 2GB of free data and 2000 free SMSes. You can also pick larger top-up amounts if you need more data. Your top-up is then used for making calls and, at the end of 30 days, any remainder rolls over to the next month. This can be then used for calls, data, and SMSes until it is gone and you need to top-up again.
  • Telenet (MVNO, Mobistar network) – If you are in an area served by Telenet, they offer bundles, including Internet, TV, phone, plus WiFi hotspot access worldwide through partnerships.
  • Scarlet (MVNO, Proximus network) – Basic offerings around Internet, TV, and Phone.
  • Simyo (MVNO, BASE network) – Basic offerings around mobile only.

There are many other considerations, especially if you look at a mobile packages that includes calls, SMS and data. However, I think Mobile Vikings has the best mobile data  offer on the market today. They have embraced data as the future of mobility and continue to launch new and innovative products. This includes a referral program which rewards users with a free top-up when a friend signs up. Of course, if you’re interested in Mobile Vikings, we’d appreciate if you clicked our referral link!

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.

Also, if you want a tool to compare operators, the Belgian telecommunications regulator, BIPT, has a website which provides a tool to compare mobile, internet, and telephony options in Belgium.

Do you use mobile internet in Belgium? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Looking for more resources for living in Belgium? Check out our Expat Resources page.

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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+
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17 comments

  1. Comment by Antonio

    Antonio May 21, 2012 at 14:14

    I’m a proud Mobile Vikings user… And I can say it is excellent! No frills, no endless and tricky subscriptions, no Mobistar unprofessionalism, no Proximus hassles… Just calls, SMS and Internet, for a reasonable price (next to those in the rest of Europe) and with a decent quality. And if you’re done, you just throw away the SIM and change operator…

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison May 21, 2012 at 14:26

      Me too Antonio! I’m been more than pleased with their service for over two years now. They are constantly evolving and growing to meet the needs of their customers. A wonderful, and rare, thing to see here.

  2. Comment by Edi

    Edi May 21, 2012 at 15:10

    In the prepaid side of things, JIM Mobile Red (MVNO, BASE network) was the best option I found – €5 for 500MB, valid for a month. It works very very well.

    • Comment by Andrew

      Andrew

      Andrew May 21, 2012 at 17:58

      Thanks, Edi! I see that JIM Mobile has a Megasurf option which is 1 cent per MB up to 500MB… that may also be a good option.

      One thing I’ve picked up as well from comments on Twitter is that you really need to consider the network coverage and how that may affect you. A tool to check coverage is Sensorly: http://www.sensorly.com/map/2G-3G/BE/Belgium

      • Comment by Edi

        Edi May 23, 2012 at 10:31

        Hey Andrew, MEGASURF is exactly the option I was referring to (€5 for 500MB).
        Nice tool for the coverage 😉

      • Comment by Sanderd17

        Sanderd17 June 8, 2012 at 10:30

        That data seems to be seriously out of data. I have 3G at home, and I have 3G in Leuven, both at the campus and at my student home. All three places are not coloured in that map you give (if you zoom in enough to see more detail).

        The map KPN released in November looks totally different, with almost complete low-speed internet coverage, and more 3G coverage (dark-blue)

        Btw, I use MV, so I work on the Base network

        • Comment by Andrew

          Andrew

          Andrew June 8, 2012 at 10:51

          Thanks for commenting! Of course things change and it takes time for maps to get updated, especially when they are third party. Of course it will also depend on where you are with respect to the nearest tower and what is in between.

          KPN (BASE) has been actively updating their network in the past couple of years. You can see the difference between February and March 2012 by looking at the tool created by Bram Vandeperre: http://mv.b12e.be/coverage/

          Mobile data is going to become increasingly important, so I’m eager to see adoption of the next generation technologies here in Belgium. Will Proximus push out their LTE ‘trial’ to a wider audience? Will BUCD launch something that will force more competition? It should be interesting. 🙂

          Thanks again!

  3. Comment by Shreena

    Shreena May 24, 2012 at 13:44

    WOW! I literally JUST was thinking how much of a hassle it was going to be to look through all the options…and then I saw your post! Thanks sooooo much – you have saved me 3 days at least! Any advice as to how to get a new number…or is it just best to pay the €15 subscription?

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison May 24, 2012 at 13:57

      I’m glad we could help Shreena! Assuming you are going with Mobile Vikings you can order a SIM directly from them for a minimal fee. That’s probably your easiest and cheapest option.

  4. Comment by Helen

    Helen June 15, 2012 at 12:06

    Can you use Mobile Vikings with an iPhone?

    • Comment by Andrew

      Andrew

      Andrew June 15, 2012 at 12:29

      Hi Helen, Yes! Not a problem. The sim card they send you can be used both as a normal sim and micro-sim.

  5. Comment by Craig

    Craig June 21, 2012 at 15:38

    Hello Alison,
    I am in the US and thinking about purchasing a new iPad3 for use in Brussels. Which model (AT&T or Verizon) would work best in Brussels?
    Thanks,
    Craig

    • Comment by Andrew

      Andrew

      Andrew June 26, 2012 at 10:17

      Hi Craig, Thanks for commenting! Both models will function the same way in Belgium. Based on a bit of quick research the only real differences are: the AT&T version has an extra LTE frequency (2100MHz) and the Verizon version has CDMA, which is useless in Europe anyway. LTE isn’t useful in Belgium yet, so you’d be using 3G/HSDPA+ anyway. Hope that helps!

  6. Comment by MJ

    MJ July 5, 2012 at 15:18

    Hello,
    My girlfriend go to Belgium (Roeselare) for 6 weeks and I’m thinking about operator with mobile internet, but with no subscription, just with option to charge for money, buying SIM card in newsstand or whatever i dont know where You can get sim card 😉 She doesnt need any calling or sms, just mobile internet. So dont look with theses option (sms, call). Which offer it’s good for her with no subscription and good signal for nearly Roeselare? I’m from Poland, so I dont know about it. Im waiting for advices on my email mjratmed@gmail.com

    • Comment by Andrew

      Andrew

      Andrew July 6, 2012 at 10:37

      Hi MJ, Thanks for reading and posting. If you’re girlfriend has an address in Roeselare then I think the best option is MobileVikings because she’ll get 2GB of data free with a 15 euro top-up. Because it will be a new SIM you’ll have to pay an administrative fee of 15 euros, but you’d pay that anywhere.

      Another alternative would be JIM Mobile. Edi, one of the commenters here, mentioned their MEGASurf option which is 5 euros for 500MB. You can buy SIM cards for JIM at a BASE or ALLO telecom store (both of which can be found in Roeselare).

      Good luck to your girlfriend! I hope she enjoys Belgium!

  7. Comment by Mike

    Mike October 31, 2012 at 19:03

    Hi, I am going to study in Belgium for six months and will need to call the US a bit. I also have an IPhone 4s from the US and use facebook and instagram a lot. What would you recommend for me? Thanks

    • Comment by Andrew

      Andrew

      Andrew November 2, 2012 at 15:27

      Hi Mike, thanks for commenting! I think a pay-as-you-go solution, like MobileVikings would be the best. You top up with 15€ which gives you 2GB of data, 1000 SMSes, and calls at €0.24 per minute. At the end of the month, you can top up again or use the remaining balance until it is gone. Calls to the US are rather expensive, but it’s free if you use Facetime or Skype-to-skype and costs less if you use Skype-to-landline. Further, once you’re here you will also be able to use wifi. Good luck with the move and your studies!

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