Time Please, M'sieurs

Did someone put something in the Belgian water supply earlier this month? First there was an i-mode launch, then talk about WLAN hotspots (see Brussels Sprouts I-Mode and WiFi Avec Les Frites?). Now it looks as if the deadline for 3G is gonna be set back a bit.

It seems that the country's communications minister Rik Daems is prepared to offer the country's three 3G license-holders an additional 15 months before they launch their networks, so extending the date to December 2004. This follows a ruling by Jean Claude Van Damme... No, hang on. That's the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications. Pardonez moi, mes amis.

The operators need more time, the Institute says, because of delays in the delivery of vital equipment, trouble with gaining local licenses to erect masts, and an overindulgence in very strong fruity beers brewed by trappist monks that makes any work after lunch simply impossible (we made that last bit up).

Daems says he'll act on the regulator's recommendation if the EU does not agree on a harmonized 3G rollout timetable. So, expect official notification of a delay in Belgium any day soon.

The lucky trio -- BASE, Mobistar SA, and Proximus -- have already had one stay of execution. Wonder if they'll need a third?

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung www.unstrung.com
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