Sweden bans use of Huawei, ZTE equipment in new 5G networks
The Swedish government on Tuesday announced that telecommunications equipment from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE would not be allowed to be used in the building of new fifth generation, or 5G, networks due to national security concerns.
The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) said Tuesday that Huawei and ZTE equipment could not be used in building out new networks, with a spectrum auction due to be held next month for approved companies.
The PTS further announced that existing infrastructure that currently uses Huawei and ZTE equipment for “central functions” in relation to the new networks must strip out all the equipment from the Chinese groups by Jan. 1, 2025.
PTS noted that it was following advice from the Swedish Armed Forces and Security Services, with these organizations carrying out studies to ensure that the use of radio equipment in the spectrum bands being auctioned in November “does not cause harm to Sweden’s security.”
ABC News reported that Klas Friberg, the head of the Swedish Security Service, described China as “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,” Friberg said according to ABC. “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.”
A spokesperson for Huawei told The Hill that the company was “surprised and disappointed” by the decision in Sweden.
“Huawei is a private commercial company 100 percent owned by its employees,” the spokesperson told The Hill in an emailed statement. “There are no factual grounds to support allegations of Huawei posing any security threat. The exclusion of Huawei is simply based on groundless presumption and is unfair and unacceptable.
“During our 20 years of operation in Sweden, as with over three decades in 170+ countries and regions around the world, we maintained a proven track record of zero major security incidents,” the spokesperson added. “Huawei has never caused even the slightest shred of threat to Swedish cyber security and never will. Excluding Huawei will not make Swedish 5G networks any more secure. Rather, competition and innovation will be severely hindered.
“We will assess carefully the impact of the PTS decision,” the Huawei spokesperson said. “In the meantime, we hope that the Swedish government will re-evaluate the decision in the spirit of fair and open market that it has always upheld.”
ZTE did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment.
The ban will likely create an opening in the 5G space for Huawei and ZTE rival companies , including Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson.
The decision to ban Huawei and ZTE equipment in new Swedish 5G networks is the latest effort by a European nation to push the companies out for potential national security issues.
The United Kingdom announced in July that all mobile network operators would be required to stop buying Huawei equipment by the end of the year, and would also be required to rip out and replace all existing Huawei equipment by 2027.
The French government in July also took action against Huawei, declining to fully ban the use of Huawei equipment, but strongly encouraging telecom companies to avoid the use of the group’s equipment.
The Trump administration has taken steps to limit the ability of both Huawei and ZTE to do business in the U.S., including through the Commerce Department’s decision to add both to its “entity list” over the last few years, with U.S. companies blocked from doing business with groups on the list.
The Trump administration has strongly pressured allied countries to push out both ZTE and Huawei from their networks due to national security issues, with many concerns stemming from a Chinese intelligence law that requires Chinese citizens and companies to disclose sensitive data to the government if requested.
U.S. prosecutors have previously brought charges against Huawei for intellectual property theft, wire fraud and obstruction of justice, among others.
U.S. agencies fined ZTE a combined $1.19 billion in 2017 after the company pleaded guilty to violating export controls by illegally shipping equipment from the U.S. to Iran. NBC News reported in March that the Justice Department was investigating ZTE on alleged bribery charges.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, applauded the decision by the Swedish government on Tuesday.
“Make no mistake: Huawei is simply the [Chinese Community Party’s] surveillance puppet disguised as a ‘private’ company,” Sasse said in a statement provided to The Hill. “There is nothing ‘private’ about Huawei. They lie, steal information, and report only to Chairman Xi. Sweden made the right call today and our relationship will be made stronger for it.”