Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm reportedly lobbied a Swedish minister to reverse a ban on Huawei and ZTE from Sweden’s rollout of 5G.
The reports surfaced when the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reported on a series of texts between Ekholm and Swedish Foreign Trade Minister Anna Hallberg. The Ericsson CEO reportedly suggested Ericsson might even leave Sweden if the government didn’t allow Huawei to participate in the rollout of 5G.
In the phone messages, Ekholm sought Hallberg’s help in reviewing an order by the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) that operators must remove Huawei and ZTE from existing infrastructure used for 5G by January 2025, according to reports.
Ekholm told the DN that he wants all suppliers to be involved in building 5G networks in Sweden.
Huawei is Ericsson’s biggest competitor but they’re also partners, Ekholm told the DN. Plus, China accounts for about 8% of Ericsson’s sales and represents a much larger market opportunity than Sweden, which an analyst pointed out in the Global Times is demographically speaking, about half the size of Beijing.
During the company’s third-quarter conference call, Ekholm was asked if he sees any risk in Ericsson’s 5G market position in China if the Chinese government decided to retaliate against European vendors.
Ekholm replied that countries have to decide on the geopolitical situation and national security on their own. However, “the reality is we thrive in a situation where there is competition,” he said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “Competition drives out the best from us… I welcome that we have competition and that we have a global competition.”
Sweden to auction 5G airwaves
Sweden was supposed to hold a 5G spectrum auction in November, but Huawei challenged the auction rules. The Swedish PTS prevailed in a court review, and the auction is now set to take place on January 19.
In October, the PTS announced that four entities were approved for participating in 3.5 GHz and 2.3 GHz auctions: Hi3G Access, Net4Mobility, Telia Sverige and Teracom.
Last year, the government of the U.K. advised operators to stop installing any Huawei equipment in 5G networks by the end of September 2021 as part of a Telecommunications (Security) Bill. Sweden had told its operators that equipment already installed by Chinese manufacturers must be removed by January 1, 2025.
In the U.S., citing national security risks, both Republicans and Democrats have agreed to bans on Huawei and ZTE from the nation’s telecom networks. Just before the holidays, lawmakers approved an allocation of $1.9 billion to fund rip-and-replace programs for carriers that need to take out Huawei gear and replace it with equipment from someone else.