Jan 16, 2013

4G roll-out in the Netherlands

In 2013 the long-awaited 4G mobile network will become available on a large scale in the Netherlands. After Dutch telecom providers have gained licenses to roll out this successor of the current 3G network,  KPN takes the lead and starts this February. We bring you up-to-date on 4G, its benefits and the roll-out in the Netherlands. 

To read the article in Dutch, click here

4G is the fourth generation of mobile network technologies and is the successor to the 2G and 3G network that enabled us to call, text and access the internet on our mobile phones. 4G mainly brings an improvement to the overall quality of the connection and higher data upload and download speeds. The 4G network offers a maximum speed up to four times higher than the current networks, and is expected to improve even further over the years as the engineering on 4G technology continues. 

Higher speeds and improved connectivity

Consumers that acquire 4G-capable smartphones and data plans will notice the benefits in their everyday mobile usage. Emailing or sending photos and videos via services such as Whatsapp takes less time, websites load faster and loading times of web dependent applications is reduced. Due to the higher download speeds mobile phones can handle large files much easier, whereas the stable connection helps build better connections with remote servers and devices. 

New possibilities

Video and mobile TV

As the higher download speeds with 4G decrease loading time for video content, buffering will be almost non-existent. Video content services like YouTube and Vimeo will be able to offer much more HD content to mobile users. The stuttering will be reduced because the reaction time of the connection between the phone and the server is improved under 4G. 

4G further stimulates the development of high quality over-the-top TV services as video streaming quality is improved significantly. Watching live television on mobile devices is becoming more popular and broadcasters seize the opportunity to distinquish themselves with innovative mobile applications.

Realtime multiplayer games

We expect 4G to have an impact on gaming applications, and more specifically on realtime multiplayer games that require a low latency. While most of the current popular multiplayer games are turn-based, such as Wordfeud and Draw Something, we expect a trend towards realtime gaming once 4G becomes a common good.

Live mobile broadcasting

4G enables easy recording and broadcasting of HD video footage wherever you go, offering improvements on existing mobile broadcasting services. For example Mobile Viewpoint and its solutions that enable television broadcasters to livestream their content from anywhere to an offsite location, through the use of bundled SIM cards over the 3G network. With 4G there are less SIM cards necessary while at the same time a better connection and higher up- and download speeds are achieved. Thus resulting in a sharper, more stable image for usage in live broadcast settings.

Michel Bais, Managing Director of Mobile Viewpoint, explains: "The large amount of bandwidth makes it easier to guarantee a constant high video quality. Thanks to the low frequencies that are being deployed for 4G, our users will see much better coverage both in buildings and parking garages as well as at remote locations. This first point is especially important for use in the broadcasting industry as it provides an alternative to satellite trucks that are difficult to use indoors."

Video conferencing

Live video streaming will also become of greater importance outside of the broadcast industry. Video conferencing services such as Skype can explore the possibility of video calling in HD. KPN also provides the example of how 4G contributes to the health industry (see video). Doctors and other experts will be able to collaborate over a distance by using high quality video conferencing. This shift from being dependent on a landline for bandwidth intensive purposes to having high speed connectivity wherever you go, is at the heart of the innovation surrounding the 4G technology.


LTE auction

4G was initially rolled out in the Netherlands on a local level. The required frequency licenses for a national roll-out were not yet available to the telecom providers. After delays in order to allow new contenders to enter the market, the government’s LTE auction for licenses took place in December 2012. Partly due to this delay, the Netherlands is the 38th country in the world to roll out 4G.

The auction brought in 3.8 billion euros, a number eight times higher than expected. The Dutch providers KPN and Vodafone paid the most, respectively 1.35 and 1.38 billion, as they licensed both the lower 800 MHz and the higher 1800 MHz frequencies. T-Mobile paid 911 million for just the higher spectrum and Tele 2 paid 160 million for just the lower spectrum. VodafoneKPN and T-Mobile have sent out a video message relating to the auction outcome.

KPN and Vodafone have chosen to license both high and low frequencies in order to provide the best coverage in both rural areas as well as cities. However, this does not necessarily mean that they are going to provide the best network. The next paragraph provides an overview of the differences in frequency, as it relates to network quality.

High vs. low frequency

The biggest advantages of the low, 800 MHz frequency are the much larger range and better penetration through obstacles. This is particularly useful in rural areas and for good coverage in buildings made of concrete.

The best solution for densely populated areas is a combination of 800 and 1800 MHz cell towers.

The problem with having a larger range is that the capacity of the cell tower itself is limited. In order to supply enough capacity for densely populated areas, the 1800 MHz frequency is much better suited. This frequency has a smaller range and building penetration and should thus be used to cover much smaller areas. Because more cell towers are needed to cover the same area this will result in an overall increase in capacity. 

Both KPN and Vodafone will deploy a combination of both high and low frequency cell towers in populated areas in order to increase both the capacity as well as the penetration within buildings.


The first frequency that will be rolled out in the Netherlands is the low, 800 MHz band. This is mostly due to the fact that the 1800 band is currently still in use for other services that will at least be effected until the end of February 2013. KPN provided details on their roll-out, which is presented in the map below. When other providers share their plans, we will update this page to reflect the announcements.

Last updated : January 15, 2013

Compatible mobile devices

Currently, the only device widely available in the Netherlands that can use the 4G network as auctioned of in the Netherlands, is the iPhone 5 by Apple. However, it must be noted that the iPhone 5 can only connect to 4G networks using the 1800MHz frequency, which won't be rolled out until the first of July 2013.

KPN has announced that they will start selling five additional 4G-capable smartphones once their 4G network launches in February 2013:

  • Samsung Galaxy S3 4G
  • Nokia Lumia 820 4G
  • 920 4G
  • Huawei Ascent P1 LTE
  • ZTE Grand ERA LTE

Even though one of the most popular mobile devices at the moment (the iPhone 5) is 4G-capable, it will still be a few years until the technology becomes the norm in the Netherlands. The percentage of 4G-capable phones in the Netherlands was just 3% in the last quarter of 2012.



By using sales figures by GfK and Triple IT's internal research, we forecast that there will be more than four million 4G-capable smartphones in the Netherlands by the end of 2014. 56% of these smartphones will be made by Apple, while 34% is made by Samsung. We expect all of Apple's future smartphones and devices to support 4G, while Samsung will also offer low- and mid-end phones for which it is less important to have the latest technology.

The rapid growth will cause the percentage of 4G compatible smartphones to grow to 16% and 27% at the end of 2013 and 2014 respectively. From 2015, the market share of 4G will be large enough for services to be offered exclusively for 4G users. 

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