The fact that cell phone coverage in trains is weaker than outside has to do with the concept of the 'Faraday cage' from physics: a metal casing - like a train car is one - is harder to penetrate by electromagnetic radiation, which results in a fierce reduction of the electromagnetic signal.
So achieving 100% mobile coverage in trains is very difficult.
Coverage can be improved by building new antennas along the railroad lines. Proximus has made significant efforts here in recent years, focusing on the main train lines.
Whenever a new antenna site is built by an operator - whether along railroad lines or not - there is a legal procedure that allows the other operators to place an antenna on the same site / mast. In such a case, the site (not necessarily the antenna) is thus indeed shared. Each operator makes its own choice in this respect, depending on the needs of its mobile network in terms of reception and capacity.
Technological developments are also leading to improvements. Today, many mobile devices are already equipped with VoLTE technology: using the 4G network to handle a phone call. Proximus has measured in its train tests that this newer technology also provides a better experience on the train, largely explained by the fact that 4G technology uses a slightly lower frequency (800Mhz): a lower frequency goes a little easier inside a 'Faraday cage'. Slowly but surely, there is an evolution away from the 'classic' GSM handsets, towards this newer technology.
The same goes for the use of mobile data: the newer devices can handle 4G, which works much faster than the older 3G or 2G devices. The technological update to 4G is 99% complete on the Proximus network. And 5G also promises an improvement in data speed and reception, especially when the 700 MHz frequencies become available after the government auction.
Some Walloon municipalities have asked us to suspend the activation of 5G technology on their territory, in order to allow for a period of information for their population about 5G. To allow these discussions to be conducted calmly, Proximus has agreed to temporarily suspend its deployment in these communes. This temporary suspension will allow us to have a constructive dialog with the Walloon region and the municipalities on what 5G can deliver and to share reassuring information about the health and environmental aspects of this new technology. Proximus remains committed to deploying the best 5G network in Belgium while respecting all the standards applicable in each region, which are among the strictest in the world.
Proximus has been preparing 5G for years, with tests that have been announced and communicated since 2016. As we announced our new strategy on 31 March, it had long been planned to launch our initial 5G network at the same time. Preparations for this had already been underway for a long time, and therefore have nothing to do with the current situation.
For the first cities for the launch, we based ourselves on the Walloon and Flemish cities where there is today a strong demand for Mobile data (in 3G and 4G) - so it is based on existing usage by our customers.
As far as communication is concerned, we are currently in dialogue with the municipalities and aldermen who have contacted us on this subject. We will of course answer their questions. These are also places where there are many companies and industries that are potentially interested in this technology.
Our network has always been deployed in compliance with regional legislation in both urban planning and environmental matters and we have all the authorisations.
Proximus recognises and fully assumes its societal responsibility to apply a principle of prudence when it comes to protecting its customers. The health aspects of radio frequencies, particularly those used in mobile telephony, have been the subject of scientific studies for more than 30 years. Nearly 30,000 studies have been carried out, and we are constantly monitoring the progress of these studies.
On the basis of these studies, no link has been demonstrated between wave emissions and any health hazards, as long as these wave emissions remain within the limits recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The standards in the Belgian regions are much stricter than the standards recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and Proximus has always acted and continues to act within the framework of these Belgian standards.
In our neighbouring countries (Germany, France, the Netherlands), the standards are aligned with international standards. 5G will not change these standards, and the deployment is and will be done in all countries, including Belgium, in compliance with these standards.
5G is a technology that is more energy efficient than 4G, 3G and 2G - it allows us to transfer more data for the same amount of power consumption, and therefore allows us to meet our customers' demands in a more environmentally friendly way.
Moreover, Proximus already ensures that 100% of our electricity supply comes from green energy, such as solar panels and wind turbines.
So, there are no additional CO2 emissions as a result of the launch of 5G, on the contrary.
On our Proximus.com site, we have made available a page providing additional information about the impact of airwaves on health and the environment. There are also links to information pages made available by the Belgian regions and the World Health Organisation concerning scientific research in this field.
Proximus believes that technology can improve our lives. But that does not mean that we believe that everyone should be connected day and night. A technology like 5G can ensure that we can use technology more efficiently (work faster, download a movie faster, use less energy, etc.), leaving more time for what is really important in life.