Sweden is another name on the list of nations that have banned their telecom operators from using infrastructure from Chinese tech companies. This time, it is Huawei and ZTE which are under the radar, and they cannot build 5G infrastructure on Swedish land.
The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority have, in an announcement, declared that in the upcoming week, four wireless carriers would be bidding in an upcoming spectrum auction for the new 5G networks. To set up their network equipment, these carriers (Hi3G Access, Net4Mobility, Telia Sverige, and Teracom) cannot use hardware from Huawei and ZTE.
The Swedish telecom regulator has passed an ultimatum to replace any existing equipment made by Huawei or ZTE by January 1st, 2025, at the least. This decision comes after meticulous assessments made by the Swedish military and security forces. A press release by the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority reads, “In accordance with new legislation, which entered into force on 1 January 2020, an examination of applications has been conducted in consultation with the Swedish Armed Forces and the Swedish Security Service, to ensure that the use of radio equipment in these bands does not cause harm to Sweden´s security.”
This ban aims at new installations and newer implementations of central functions for use of the frequency bands for radio communication. Sweden is the latest country to ban networking company Huawei from building 5G networks for wireless service providers.
Recently, Belgian telecom operators Orange Belgium and Proximus announced that they will eventually replace the equipment from Huawei. The United States is pushing its allies to ban Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese companies. Having highlighted the risks that using Huawei equipment could bring to national security, the US is urging internet providers and telco operators in allied countries to stop letting Chinese firms work in their countries.
Huawei lost its business in other countries too, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Romania, and Japan. They have already announced the exclusion of the Chinese giant from building their 5G internal networks. In April 2018, the UK GCHQ intelligence agency alerted UK telcos regarding the risks that could arise on using ZTE equipment and services for their infrastructure.
In December 2018, a Czech cyber-security agency issued warnings against the use of Huawei and ZTE technologies for building their internal networks as they pose a threat to state security. In September, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimated the cost of a full replacement of all Huawei and ZTE hardware on American wireless networks at $1.837bn. They plan to proceed with the replacement soon.
The head of Sweden’s domestic security service (SAPO), Klas Friberg states that several foreign states have intensified their intelligence activity and the protection of 5G networks from cyber espionage and hacking campaign from threat actors is crucial for homeland security. He says, “China is one of the biggest threats to Sweden. The Chinese state is conducting cyber espionage to promote its own economic development and develop its military capabilities. This is done through extensive intelligence gathering and theft of technology, research, and development. This is what we must consider when building the 5G network of the future.”
This sudden decision by the Swedish government has caught Huawei off-guard. They seemed “surprised and disappointed” by this decision. In a statement from them, Huawei says, “Huawei has never caused even the slightest shred of threat to Swedish cybersecurity and never will. Excluding Huawei will not make Swedish 5G networks any more secure. Rather, competition and innovation will be severely hindered.”