Proximus has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Consortium of Belgian financial partners with I4B – The Belgian Infrastructure Fund – as an anchor investor.
In the framework of this envisioned partnership, parties involved intend to bring fiber for up to an additional 1.7 million homes and businesses situated in areas with low population density. Provided that a definitive agreement is reached, this deployment would come on top of existing roll-out plans of Proximus and its joint ventures and allow to extend Fiber coverage to 95% of all Belgian homes and businesses.
This will permit to bring 10 Gigabit PON technology both in dense and more rural areas. This envisioned extension is not only quite unique in Europe, but also an important step in Proximus’ ambition to ultimately offer a Gigabit network for the whole territory, leveraging fixed wireless access technology for the remaining 5%.
Subject to the conclusion of a final agreement, parties envisage the creation of two new joint ventures (focused respectively on Flanders and Wallonia) that will further increase the availability of Fiber technology in Belgium, with a network that is open and accessible to all under non-exclusive and non-discriminatory terms. The envisioned collaboration represents a total cumulated investment by the joint ventures of approximately EUR 4 billion. Proximus will serve as anchor tenant of the network and will also participate as an important minority shareholder in the equity of the joint ventures, while safeguarding its balance sheet.
I4B – The Belgian Infrastructure Fund – whose founding investors are the Federal Holding and Investment Company (SFPI-FPIM), AG Insurance and Synatom, will act as an anchor investor to the project. I4B’s mission is to finance the development of infrastructure with a positive impact on Belgium’s economic development, while taking into account societal and environmental requirements.
Reinforcing Proximus’ position as the major Fiber-to-the-Home operator in Belgium
The purpose is to cover up to an additional 1.7 million homes and businesses in areas with low population density in the framework of this collaboration, extending Proximus’ ambitions in terms of fiber coverage to up to 5.9 million homes and businesses (95%) by 2032. This includes Proximus’ standalone roll-out, covering 2.2 million premises in the most-dense areas, which is expected to be finalised by the end of 2026, with capex reaching its peak level over the years 2022-2023, and gradually decreasing afterwards. As the deployment in medium-dense areas progresses through Fiberklaar and Unifiber, covering around 2 million premises, this newly envisioned partnership, would become the third important pillar in bringing fiber connectivity to nearly the entire Belgian population. The ultimate goal is to cover the full Belgian territory with a Gigabit network, with fiber as main technology (95%) combined with fixed wireless access in the remaining zones.
The envisioned collaboration will further strengthen Proximus’ leading position in terms of Fiber-to-the-Home deployment in Belgium, expanding considerably the scope for customer retention, gaining new customers and realizing important cost reductions through the decommissioning of the copper network. Today, over 1 million homes and businesses in some 50 cities and municipalities are already connectable to the fiber network. The pace of deployment is rapidly accelerating and is closing in on Proximus’ ambition to cover 22% of all homes and business by end 2022, with a 10 percentage point annual increase as of then. Convinced of the important advantage that fiber technology brings to Proximus, this extension is a significant step forward to remain at the forefront of technological development for many years to come.
Ambition to reach a final agreement by the end of the year
The signature of this Memorandum of Understanding perfectly fits in with Proximus’ commitment to provide the most future-proof and secure network for Belgium as a catalyst for our country’s economy, employment, digital sovereignty and innovation. Further to responding to the ever-increasing demand for bandwidth, it will stimulate the development of new applications and pave the way for businesses to become more competitive, agile and innovative. The main focus being on areas with low population density, this agreement is a crucial step forward towards providing every household and business in Belgium with access to high-speed connectivity.
Following the signing of the MoU, the parties involved will now engage in negotiations on specific terms for the roll-out, aiming to close an agreement by end 2022.
A more detailed update will be provided once a final agreement has been reached.
“Fiber is the ultimate broadband technology of the future, providing a best-in-class, secure and reliable customer experience and stimulating the adoption of new ways of living and working. With its virtually unlimited capacity, it can support advanced technological developments in the areas of artificial intelligence, AR/VR, data analytics and IoT. Fiber is also environmentally friendly, more energy-efficient and has a longer lifespan than any other fixed Internet technology. We are therefore very excited to sign this MoU, with a consortium of Belgian financial partners with I4B as anchor investor and with an aligned interest of bringing high-speed connectivity to all Belgian citizens as fast as possible. It will permit Proximus to confirm its role as leading telecom operator, with not only the best mobile experience for its customers but also the largest fiber coverage,” commented, Guillaume Boutin
CEO of the Proximus Group.
André Autrand, CEO of I4B, said, “The Belgian Infrastructure Fund
This ambitious initiative will not only stimulate the economic development and competitiveness of Belgium. It will focus on rural and semi-rural areas of Belgium and stimulate digital inclusion. It will also replace the existing infrastructure with a more sustainable and climate friendly technology, that will contribute to decreasing energy consumption and CO₂ emissions. Through its experience in the structuring of high profile and complex projects and its local anchorage, I4B – The Belgian Infrastructure Fund is very pleased to support this extra rollout in Belgium as an anchor investor alongside Proximus.”
Petra De Sutter, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Civil Service, Public Enterprises, Telecommunication and the Postal Services, commented, “This partnership is a way to ensure access to internet in areas with no or insufficient connectivity. Belgium has few so-called white zones. Yet, in 2020, almost 140,000 households had no access to high-speed fixed Internet. In the 21st century, every family without fast internet at home is one too many. More and more government services are becoming digital, job applications are often held online, just like registering children at school, paying bills, and so on. A citizen who does not have access to the digital society is excluded. This cooperation brings us one step closer to what, for me, is a fundamental right for every Belgian.”