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.
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.