Swedish regulator cites security reasons for banning 5G telecom equipment from Huawei and ZTE, ahead of spectrum auctions
The Swedish telecoms regulator has imposed licence conditions for local operators looking to take part in its upcoming 5G spectrum auctions.
Part of those conditions are that any auction bidders must remove Huawei and ZTE gear from existing central functions by January 2025 at the latest.
It comes after assessments by the Swedish Armed Forces and security service, which called China “one of the biggest threats against Sweden.”
The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) announced the decision on Tuesday, after it confirmed that Hi3G Access, Net4Mobility, Telia Sverige and Teracom have been approved for participation in the 3.5 GHz and 2.3 GHz auctions, beginning on 10 November.
However, it made clear that one of the central conditions for participation is that Huawei and ZTE gear is removed.
“New installations and new implementation of central functions for the radio use in the frequency bands must not be carried out with products from the suppliers Huawei or ZTE,” said PTS. “If existing infrastructure for central functions is to be used to provide services in the concerned frequency bands, products from Huawei and ZTE must be phased out 1 January 2025 at the latest.”
“If central functions are dependant of staff or functions placed in foreign countries, such dependencies must be phased out and, if necessary, be replaced by functions or staff placed in Sweden,” it added. “This must be completed by 1 January 2025.”
Sweden of course is home to Ericsson, one of Huawei’s two main competitors (the other being Finland’s Nokia).
The United States government has for years been pressuring countries around the world not to use Huawei equipment on national security grounds.
Huawei has repeatedly denied it is a national security risk.
Earlier this week a European trade group representing alternative telecoms operators, the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA), warned against banning Chinese telecoms equipment vendors for political reasons.
It said banning Chinese vendors would increase costs and delay network upgrades.
However industry consultant John Strand, known as an outspoken critic of Chinese vendors, challenged the ECTA’s position, saying Nordic operators Telenor, Telia and TDC had replaced Chinese equipment “without increasing cost”.
And European governments are following the lead of the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand in ordering local operators to remove Huawei equipment.
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July ordered all Huawei equipment to be purged completely from Britain’s 5G network by 2027.
Canada has also ‘unofficially’ excluded Huawei from 5G networks, by delaying a decision long enough to force local operators to exclude equipment from the vendor.
Germany’s decision was opposed by local operators, and instead of an opting for an outright ban on Huawei, some experts feel that Germany is effectively going to strangle Huawei in red tape.
France meanwhile is reportedly considering informally excluding the Chinese vendor.
It comes after one of France’s largest mobile operators, Bouygues Telecom, confirmed in August it would remove 3,000 Huawei mobile antennas by 2028.
In July major Portuguese telcos (NOS, Altice and Vodafone) said they would not use Huawei kit for their 5G networks.
Huawei has also been sidelined in Norway, after Telenor confirmed last December that it has picked Sweden’s Ericsson as the key technology provider for its 5G network in Norway.
Last week Dutch telecom KPN also opted to use 5G equipment from Sweden’s Ericsson.
Indeed, KPN became one of the first European operator to rule out Huawei when in April 2019 it reportedly said it would select a Western supplier to build its core 5G mobile network.