Huawei’s ambitions in Sweden look to be over, after an appeals court in the country upheld a ruling by a lower court that banned Huawei kit in the country.

It all stems from October 2020, when the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) imposed licence conditions for local operators looking to take part in its upcoming 5G spectrum auctions.

It ruled that any auction bidders must remove Huawei and ZTE gear from existing central functions by January 2025 at the latest.

Image credit: Huawei

Equipment removal

That Swedish decision came after assessments by the Swedish Armed Forces and security service, which called China “one of the biggest threats against Sweden.”

China at the time issued a thinly veiled trade threat against Sweden, and warned the PTS decision placed Ericsson’s contract to supply equipment to a number of Chinese mobile operators at risk.

In November 2020 Huawei won a court appeal against the ruling, but the PTS regulator said it would appeal against that ruling.

In December 2020, the Administrative Court of Appeal backed PTS’s appeal, that allowed PTS to resume 5G spectrum auctions without removing an earlier ban on Huawei.

However that court also said Huawei could pursue a legal challenge over its exclusion.

In January 2021 a Swedish lower court rejected that appeal and confirmed the ban on Huawei from the country’s 5G network roll out.

Huawei filed another appeal in October 2021, but now Reuters has reported that the Swedish appeals court has backed the lower court’s ruling.

Disappointed Huawei

Sweden had asked its telecom companies to remove gear made by Huawei and Chinese rival ZTE from existing infrastructure and core functions before 1 January 2025.

Huawei’s Swedish unit told Reuters in a statement on Wednesday it was disappointed by the verdict from the Stockholm’s Administrative Court of Appeal.

“We will analyse the ruling, and evaluate our next steps, including other legal remedies under Swedish law and EU law, in order to continue to safeguard our legitimate rights and interests,” Huawei reportedly wrote.

Sweden’s ban on Huawei has also led to Ericsson facing a backlash in China.

Indeed, Ericsson’s Chinese revenues have reportedly dropped to around 3 percent of its total (down from 10-11 percent), and the firm was forced to reduce its operations in China (one of its biggest markets).

Huawei pain

But there is no doubt that 5G and other equipment bans imposed by many Western nations, led by the United States, has hurt the Chinese vendor.

The US had added Huawei to an export blacklist in 2019, saying it was a national security threat (which Huawei has always denied).

The US blacklisting made it almost impossible for the Chinese company to access components such as microprocessors that utilise US design or manufacturing technology.

In May this year, Canada became the last ‘Five Eyes’ country to order local mobile operators to remove equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies and ZTE by 2024.

Five Eyes ban

Canada was very late to the party on this, compared to the other ‘Five Eyes members (US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada).

The United States has conducted a long campaign to pressure its allies to ban Huawei equipment, which included a warning about future intelligence sharing.

In 2019 then US secretary of state Mike Pompeo publicly warned that the US “may not be able to operate in certain environments if there is Huawei technology adjacent to that”.

Australia had already banned the use of Huawei telecom equipment as far back as 2012, and in 2018 that country included Huawei’s 5G equipment in that ban.

New Zealand also rejected Huawei 5G kit in that same year.

The UK took much longer to reach a complete ban, partly because Huawei was already well entrenched in Britain, having supplied gear to UK mobile phone companies for the best part of two decades.

However Prime Minister Boris Johnson in mid July 2020 ordered all Huawei equipment to be purged completely from Britain’s 5G network by 2027.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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