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5G

Telia, Tele2 and Three trumpet Swedish 5G launches

As the saying goes, you wait ages for one 5G network in Sweden and three come along at once: The Swedish units of Telia, Tele2 and Hi3G Access (Three Sweden) have laid out commercial 5G launch plans, although the operators are still awaiting the allocation of 5G-friendly spectrum after the auction was delayed until November 2020.

Tele2 Sweden claimed to have launched the market's first 5G network after switching on 5G basestations in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, although it seems that the services will not actually be available to subscribers until June 2020.

A Tele2 spokesperson said the operator is "working with several, existing vendors" on the launch of 5G.

Telia Sweden said 15 5G basestations are now up and running in Stockholm, with plans to launch the network in 12 cities this year including Gothenburg and Malmö. Three Sweden, which had previously claimed to be the country's first 5G provider in December 2019, said it will launch 5G in Malmö, Lund, Helsingborg, Västerås, Uppsala and more areas of Stockholm in June. Telenor Sweden says on its website that it plans to launch 5G services by the end of 2020.

Only Telia Sweden explicitly named the vendor involved in its 5G launch: The operator is working with local partner Ericsson, which confirmed it is providing radio access network (RAN) products and solutions. Tele2 said in 2019 that it had postponed making decisions on 5G vendors because of security concerns related to China-based vendors such as Huawei.

Ericsson has previously (in 2017) indicated its involvement in Hi3G 5G network upgrades in Denmark and Sweden. However, a spokesperson for Three Sweden said in an email that it did not comment "in detail" on how the mobile network is structured.

"We have several different suppliers to our mobile network," the spokesperson said. "We are currently conducting our large procurement of 5G equipment for the network, where an important aspect is the security of our customers and protection of national interests. The latter is a central part of the terms of the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority in order to be able to bid on the 5G frequencies made available in November-December."

The operators have also been forced to be fairly inventive with spectrum for their new 5G networks because of the delay in the allocation of 5G-capable spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 3.5GHz bands. Telia is using its existing 700MHz spectrum assets, Tele2 is currently relying on 80MHz in the C-band and Three Sweden is using frequencies in the 2.6GHz band.

Anders Nilsson, CEO and president of Tele2, explained that Tele2 decided to buy additional frequencies in the C-band to allow it to launch "real 5G" before the summer. "The government has delayed the planned auction of 5G spectrum in Sweden, which is unfortunate since the 5G rollout is essential to drive the digitalization of both the public and private sectors," Nilsson said.

The Swedish Post and Telecom Agency (PTS) has said the auction of frequencies in the 2.3GHz and 3.5GHz bands is due to start on November 10, 2020, with applications invited by June 30. It plans to sell "up to" 15 nationwide licenses in the 3.5GHz band, incorporating a maximum 320MHz of frequencies, and up to 80MHz in the 2.3GHz range.

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— Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

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