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Mobistar sets cable rivals deadline to open networks

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian mobile telephone operator Mobistar set cable operators a six-month deadline on Friday to open up their networks, allowing it to start its own television and fixed-line phone and internet services by the end of the year.

Mobistar said in a statement it had paid 600,000 euros ($816,100) to Telenet, which is active in the northern region of Flanders, and the same amount to southern Belgian cable operator Brutele-Tecteo.

The payments are the initial contribution to the costs of opening up the cable networks. Their operators now have six months to offer their systems to wholesale rivals.

Apart from limited fixed lines for businesses, Mobistar is a pure mobile operator and has felt the squeeze from rivals such as Belgacom and Telenet that are able to bundle phone, Internet and TV in special deals.

Telenet, which uses the network of Mobistar for its own mobile service, said it would comply with Mobistar's request.

It had argued there is already sufficient competition in Belgium, with consumers enjoying among the lowest prices in Europe for cable television.

A court is expected to rule on Telenet's objection to the opening up of its network around the middle of the year.

Mobistar did start up fixed-line services for private customers, but abandoned them in May after losing 15 percent of broadband subscribers and a quarter of TV customers in the first three months of 2013 compared with a year earlier.

Former state telecom monopoly Belgacom has for several years been obliged to open its lines. For example, BASE, the Belgian operation of Dutch KPN, has a digital TV and fixed-line service called SNOW, which uses Belgacom's network. ($1 = 0.7352 euros)

(Editing by David Holmes)

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