After Sweden banned Chinese telecoms provider Huawei from its 5G telecoms networks, Ericsson chief Börje Ekholm criticized his country's decision as an action that will restrict free competition and trade and undermine progress in the new technology.
The Scandinavian country's ban on Huawei came last month after Swedish security services accused China of "extensive intelligence gathering and theft of technology."
Huawei denied the allegations and contested the ban, saying it lacks "legal basis, violates fundamental human rights, violates fundamental EU legal principles, and is incorrect in substance".
New 5G installations in Sweden won't be able to use any Huawei or ZTE technology and any equipment from these Chinese companies already present in the existing infrastructure will have to be removed by 2025.
Despite Ericsson, along with Nokia, being Huawei's main competitors in Sweden, Ekholm argued against the legitimacy of the ban, which, according to him, deviates from EU's guidelines on 5G cybersecurity, which recommend balancing the need for national security with free competition.
"I belong in that category that believes competition makes us, longer term, a better company," Ekholm said in an interview with the Financial Times. "It may be painful shorter term, but longer term it drives us to be more innovative and make better products for our customers."
In the same interview, Ekholm said the EU's priority should be to roll out 5G as soon as possible. "Slowing the rollout of 5G is a risk for the economy. Europe risks falling behind again," he said.
Ericsson has recently strengthened its position in China by winning several 5G deals with all three majors operators in the country, which has significantly lifted profitability for the Swedish company. The company is now concerned that geopolitical tensions between the two countries might cause retaliations by China against Ericsson.
Sweden is the second country to outright ban Huawei 5G technology after the UK did so in July.
Pressure against the Chinese telecoms equipment provider has heightened amid the U.S.-China trade war talks and claims by Washington that the company's products could be used for spying.
Despite Huawei chairman Liang Hua telling reporters in London in 2019 that he was willing to "no-spy agreements with governments, including the UK government, to commit ourselves to making our equipment meet the no-spy, no-backdoors standard," Britain banned the company from its 5G networks in July after pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump's administration.
Huawei vice-president Victor Zhang told The Guardian the UK should now reconsider its decision after Trump's defeat in the presidential election. "The decision is going to have a huge economic impact on the UK," he said, warning that a delay in rolling out 5G technology will leave the UK behind and widen the north-south economic divide in the country.