Building the 5G network: Sweden is fighting Huawei

Es not surprising that Börje Ekholm has the mobile number of the Swedish Minister of Commerce Anna Hallberg. What Ekholm is said to have written to Hallberg in an undiplomatic way in the past few weeks, it is doing sooner. Ekholm is the CEO of electronics group Ericsson, one of the most important companies in the UK. The SMS messages with the minister deal with the exclusion of the Chinese company Huawei from setting up the 5G network in Sweden and the consequences that Ericsson therefore apparently fears for its own business – after all, the company itself is active in the Chinese market and connected with Chinese suppliers.

Matthias Wyssuwa

Matthias Wyssuwa

Political correspondent for Northern Germany and Scandinavia based in Hamburg.

The text messages published by the Swedish daily “Dagens Nyheter” create the impression that pressure should be put on the government to revise the exclusion. Even threats are easy to read – a message says, as it currently looks, Sweden is a really bad country to be Ericsson’s home base.

The decision from October

According to “Dagens Nyheter”, the SMS exchange began at the end of October. Shortly before, the Swedish postal authority PTS had published a decision that caused a stir internationally: It excluded the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from setting up the 5G network in Sweden and referred to objections made by the military and the secret service Säpo against the companies. Only at the beginning of last year had Sweden even regulated that security concerns could lead to the exclusion of an applicant. The military and the secret service argued that the Chinese state party and the secret service could put pressure on Huawei and influence the company. It was about the fear of espionage and possible sabotage. Huawei denied the allegations and took legal action – and Beijing reacted violently.

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Following the decision in October, the Chinese Foreign Ministry threatened “negative effects on economic and trade cooperation between China and Sweden and on the operations of Swedish companies in China”. To underline the threat, the responsible regulatory authority announced stricter controls on foreign telecommunications companies. In addition to Sweden, Great Britain, Australia and the United States have excluded Huawei from setting up the 5G network. China sees this as a campaign by the American government. A decision is still pending in Germany. In the cabinet decision taken shortly before Christmas on the security requirements for setting up the network, no company is excluded.


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