Sweden to resume 5G auctions despite Huawei legal challenge

FILE PHOTO: A smartphone with the Huawei and 5G network logo is seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration
FILE PHOTO: A smartphone with the Huawei and 5G network logo is seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture taken January 29, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

December 18, 2020

By Helena Soderpalm and Supantha Mukherjee

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedish telecoms regulator PTS will resume 5G spectrum auctions on Jan. 19, it said on Friday, after winning court approval to proceed even though China’s Huawei is taking legal action over its exclusion from 5G networks.

A Swedish court on Wednesday backed an appeal by PTS against a ruling to stop the auction, but also said telecoms equipment supplier Huawei could pursue a legal challenge over its exclusion from the country’s 5G rollout.

The United States has been pressuring allies to ban Huawei equipment from 5G networks, alleging it could be used by Beijing for spying. Huawei has denied it would allow this to happen.

Sweden said in October it would ban Huawei and Chinese rival ZTE from its 5G rollout due to security risks and gave companies taking part in 5G auctions until Jan. 1, 2025, to remove those firms’ gear from existing infrastructure and core functions.

But it was forced to halt the auctions after a challenge from Huawei led to a court injunction.

PTS said on Friday it had been in contact with the participants and would hold the auction, despite the fact the conditions would be subject to legal examination.

Kenneth Fredriksen, Huawei’s Executive Vice President, Central East Europe and Nordic Region, said it was hard to understand how a good auction could proceed.

“There is an ongoing court procedure, for which I think everyone has to just wait and see,” he told Reuters.

The auctions, crucial for the deployment of 5G in the country, have been delayed twice – once for a security review, and the second time due to Huawei’s legal challenge.

“We are very happy that PTS has decided a date for this important auction,” said Staffan Åkesson, chief technology officer at telecoms operator Telia.

Rival Tre, which has contracts with Huawei for building its network in Sweden and had filed a lawsuit against PTS, said it was well prepared for the auction, although “several legal question marks” remained.

(Reporting by Helena Soderpalm and Supantha Mukherjee; Editing by Simon Johnson and Mark Potter)