Operators prepare Sweden for 5G coverage after spectrum sale

Swedish telecom operators are planning to cover almost the entire country with 5G in the next two to three years after a spectrum auction by the country's telecom regulator PTS.

The auction between four bidders, which had been delayed for a security review and by a lawsuit filed by Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei, finally took place on Tuesday.

Bidders were units or joint ventures of telecom operators Telia, Tele2, Telenor and Tre.

"We are just really happy that the auction happened now, it is critical for our continued 5G rollout and to strengthen Sweden as a digital nation in the years to come," Staffan Åkesson, CTO Telia Sweden, said.

Telia won 120 MHz, Tre and Tele2-Telenor won 100 MHz each, while state-owned Teracom won 80 MHz in the 2.3 GHz band and total proceeds from the spectrum auction amounted to 2.3 billion Swedish crowns ($275 million).

"We are quite satisfied with the auction, we managed to secure the spectrum we needed at a reasonable price," said Tre spokesman Haval van Drumpt. "By the end of 2023 we expect the majority of our customers to have highspeed 5G."

Tre, which signed contracts with Huawei for building its network in Sweden, had filed a lawsuit against the banning of the Chinese firm. The case, along with an appeal by Huawei, is still pending.

Huawei had opposed the sale, saying that it would be difficult to redo the auction if the court subsequently concludes that the terms were unlawful.

"China will take all necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies," a spokesman for China's commerce ministry said on Thursday.

Sweden-based Ericsson, which gets some parts of its revenue by selling telecom equipment in China, had earlier criticized the exclusion of Huawei by Swedish regulators.

A Tele2 spokesman said the company aims to cover over 99% of the Swedish population within three years.

(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee, Helena Soderpalm and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alexander Smith)