May 26, 2020

Public 5G launched in Sweden despite spectrum auction delay

By Lucy Ingham

The first widespread public 5G networks launched in Sweden over the weekend, with telecoms giants Tele2, Telia and 3 Sweden all making announcements.

Tele2 announced what it claimed is “Sweden’s first public 5G network in accordance with global standards” on 24 May, which will enable customers in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö to access “speeds surpassing 1 Gbit/s” from 24 June.

“I am immensely proud of the fact that we now reveal what will be Sweden’s first real, and most encompassing, 5G network,” said Anders Nilsson, CEO and president of Tele2. “With 5G comes unlimited possibilities.”

Telia, however, was hot on the heels of Tele2, which announced a commercial 5G network in Stockholm powered by Ericsson, which will come online for “most of central Stockholm by mid-June”, with plans to roll out the service to other Swedish cities, including Gothenburg and Malmö, later inn the year. Notably Telia’s network is also powered by 100% renewable energy.

“Telia’s 5G launch lays the foundations for the next phase of digital transformation, with innovation, sustainability and security as three critical pillars, and we are proud to be doing this launch in partnership with Ericsson,” said Allison Kirkby, CEO of Telia.

Meanwhile, 3 Sweden has also announced an expansion of its test 5G network, which has been running in one small area of Stockholm since late 2019. This will see the company launch 5G services in western Stockholm, Helsingborg, Vasteras, Uppsala, Malmö and Lund in June, with an expansion to Stockholm city centre planned for later in the year.

Spectrum auction delay hampers Sweden 5G rollout

The announcements have been made despite the fact that Sweden has not yet auctioned the allocation of frequencies in the 3.5 GHz and 2.3 GHz bands, which are key to 5G expansion due to their optimum balance of download speeds and coverage.

This had been planned for early 2020, however in November 2019 the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) announced that it would be delaying the auction in order to conduct a security review in light of a new electronic communications law that was introduced on 1 January 2020. In April, the PTS announced that the auction would now begin in November 2020.

This caused frustration within the local telecoms industry as it threatened to delay the rollout of 5G within Sweden. And it undoubtedly will to some extent, as 5G network expansion will be limited until the frequencies are freed up.

However, the string of announcements show that telcos have been looking for other solutions to avoid the delay stalling their own plans.

“The government has delayed the planned auction of 5G spectrum in Sweden, which is unfortunate since the 5G roll out is essential to drive the digitalisation of both the public and private sectors,” said Tele2’s Nilsson.

“At Tele2, we decided to buy additional frequencies to reach 80 MHz unique bandwidth on the C-band, and can therefore launch real 5G already before the summer.”


Read more: Spectrum allocations for 5G impacted by Covid-19 pandemic