It's got a certain ring to it: The Battle of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve. This may well be how future 5G historians [Ed. note: Uh?] refer to the drama now playing out in this Belgian municipality located less than a 40-minute drive away from Brussels.
Proximus, the first operator in Belgium to march out commercial 5G barely two weeks ago, was ambushed by a volley of criticism from sergeant-major types in charge of the municipality.
They complained about lack of consultation and the dangers of 5G antennas firing off, machine-gun like, dangerous levels of radiation [Ed. note: Enough battle imagery, I think].
Their persistence paid off. Proximus agreed to switch off 5G in Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve to allow residents there to convene a public information meeting at the local Town Hall.
Public concern surrounding electromagnetic frequency (EMF) emissions from mobile phones and basestations is firmly on the 5G agenda, just as it was for 4G.
Thankfully the 5G health debate in Belgium appears confined to alleged sins of emission, rather than making ludicrous connections with the spread of COVID-19.
Proximus had yet to respond to questions from Light Reading about how it intends to assuage EMF fears surrounding the next-gen tech, although it did try to offer some reassurances on the subject when it launched "5G Light" in some 30 municipalities on April 1.
"Proximus uses spectrum in existing spectrum holdings [2.1GHz] deployed on existing antennas and within current EMF norms," it said in a statement. What it did not say, at least at the time anyway, was that it wouldn't be rolling out "5G Light" in Brussels. There are stricter limits on EMF emissions within the country's capital than elsewhere.
Leaders at the Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve municipality are not just keen to put 5G on standby. They are reportedly cajoling residents to engage with telecoms regulator BIPT in its public consultation period for the doling out of highly prized 5G spectrum in the 3.6GHz-3.8GHz frequency band.
There was better news for Proximus last month when the Belgian Competition Authority and BIPT allowed it to steam ahead with its network-sharing plans with Orange Belgium. The proposed joint venture was put on hold after a complaint by smaller rival Telenet.
— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading