A change in Swedish law will soon make it possible to stop particular suppliers from taking part in the nation's 5G network. According to Swedish national broadcaster SVT, the main purpose of the law is to be able to stop Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
The new legislation, expected to be pushed through Parliament this autumn, tasks the Swedish Armed Forces and the Security Police (SÄPO) with stating the terms for mobile operators. This may lead to specific manufacturers being excluded from delivering equipment to the 5G network.
“Security in radio communications and mobile networks is becoming increasingly important”, Digitisation Minister Anders Ygeman explained.
The Swedish Armed Forces and SÄPO have already begun discussions with Post and Telecom Agency (PTS) about the new routines and national security requirements on 5G networks.
“The amendment to the law makes it possible to deny a permit if a supplier poses a threat to Swedish security. It also provides the opportunity to revoke permits from operators”, Anders Ygeman explained. “We simply cannot allow dangerous components. The government and I have seen a value in having the new legislation in place before the auction for new 5G licenses is held in early 2020”, Ygeman continued.
The new Swedish Cyber Security bill will apply directly to the operators. It will give a possibility to reject, to suspend or withhold permits of the operators (including frequency band permits) due to radio use which may damage Sweden’s security.
Despite refraining from openly pointing out any particular country or supplier, Digitisation Minister Anders Ygeman previously called for “ways of stopping Huawei”.
While Huawei is the world's largest provider of mobile networks, the US government designated its 5G network as a global security threat, and called on European nations to stop Huawei as a 5G provider.
Swedish mobile operators today have a large amount of equipment from Huawei on Swedish mobile networks. If Huawei is excluded from Swedish 5G, it will mean a major change for mobile operators. Even Sweden's neighbour Finland chose Huawei to deliver the equipment for its first 5G network.
While Swedish mobile operators generally don't see Huawei as a security problem, SVT stressed, the defence community has a different opinion about it.
“5G networks will permeate entire communities. It is not just about communication between people but between gadgets, self-driving cars and critical infrastructure. That is when it becomes unacceptable with the ambiguities that exist around Huawei. So far, for example, much has been shrouded in obscurity regarding the ownership of Huawei”, Jerker Hellström, a researcher at the Swedish Defence Institute, said.
He also suggested that the Chinese Intelligence Act makes it mandatory for Chinese companies and individuals to assist the Chinese intelligence services in gathering information.
Huawei has strongly responded to such claims.
“We are privately owned, there are no external owners and the decisions are made by our management team and no one else”, Joe Kelly, global communications manager at Huawei, said, “During the 31 years on the market, nothing has shown that Huawei has done anything that jeopardises the security of people or their data. If Huawei did something inappropriate, it would be felt, for such leaves traces”, Kelly added.
Even at Huawei Scandinavia, the local CEO vehemently dismissed the security threat claims.
“As a company, we follow the principle that local legislation applies. We always follow Swedish laws and regulations to 100 percent and we have no obligations to Chinese or other authorities”, Kenneth Fredriksen said.
Sweden's pilot 5G network was launched in 2018 in Stockholm as a collaboration between Ericsson and TeliaSonera. The networks are expected to become commercially available at some point in 2020.