State of Internet bandwidth in Belgium

July 31, 2020

I was born and raised in a little city next to Paris in France. In early 2000s, the unlimited “high-speed” Internet access revolutionized communications. No need to monopolize the phone line with a 56Kbps modem anymore. Since then, the bandwidth has always increased. We have seen the ADSL, ADSL2 and fiber technologies. We had something called “Triple play” offers where unlimited phone calls, TV and Internet were packed together. There were three major companies on the market: France Telecom/Orange, Bouygues and Neuf/Cegetel/SFR (depending on the year). Then Free jumped into that alliance and broke prices with revolutionary offers. From this time, all French ISP have “low prices” – between 30 and 50€/month – for “high-speed” – hundreds of Mbps for both down and up – thanks to the fiber deployment.

Then I moved to Belgium for personal reasons. My parents-in-law have chosen Belgacom/Proximus and they were happy with it so I followed their choice. This ISP has deployed the VDSL technology which can be “fast”. My first apartment was very close to the DSLAM1 so my bandwidth was good enough, 50Mbps/15Mbps. The price was sensitively higher for Internet and TV only, 50€/month. If we wanted to have a phone line, we would have added 20€ to the monthly bill and pay each phone call! You can get unlimited phone calls for 1.19€/month only using VoIP which is the same technology our ISP use. There is a limit to the monthly Internet volume we can consume. It was something like 600GB/month when I subscribed, to 3TB now.

When I moved to my current house, I knew the bandwidth will drop. Proximus had failed to organize my move on time. You can do it yourself on the website but if you go to a shop to reschedule the appointment, they can’t do anything because it has been scheduled online. I canceled the first rendez-vous online and they created a new one with an additional two-week delay, one month after the move. I subscribed to Voo, the fastest Internet of Belgium like they say in their commercials. Same price, better speed, 120Mbps/10Mbps… for a week. Then I had three months of packet loss, 20% on average. It was unusable. The following two months were stable with a bandwidth drop, 70Mbps/10Mbps. Then packet loss again, 80% on average this time! Horrible. I re-subscribed to Proximus again, with 20Mbps/6Mbps bandwidth, but it is stable since the change. All of that for 60€/month.

I called Proximus to be notified when the fiber will come to my street to finally catch up with our neighbors' speeds, kind of. They have no plan to install it. No date. Nothing. In the meantime, my father and my grand-parents have the gigabit fiber installed at home for a lower price than mine. And even if Proximus deploy it, upload bandwidth is limited to 100Mbps where it can be 200Mbps or even 600 Mbps in France. As of today, the maximum bandwidth I could get at home is the 400Mbps/20Mbps promised by Voo, with the stability we know.

Belgian ISP, Proximus and Voo, when will you stop to steal from our pockets and start to generalize very high-speed Internet bandwidth to the small country of ours? We are in 2020s, not in 2000s.

  1. Digital subscriber line access multiplexer, the closer you are, the faster your bandwidth is. ↩︎