Sweden has banned Chinese telecoms groups Huawei and ZTE from its 5G network for security reasons, the Swedish telecoms regulator said on Tuesday.
The ban is in line with new legislation that took effect in January 2020 following an examination by the Swedish armed forces and security service "to ensure that the use of radio equipment in these bands does not cause harm to Sweden's security," the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority said in a statement.
Carriers relying on already installed equipment from Huawei, the world number two in mobile phones and a market leader for next generation 5G equipment, and ZTE, will also have to remove any existing installations by January 1, 2025.
The authority also said that if "central functions are dependant on staff or functions placed in foreign countries, such dependencies must be phased out".
The United States alleges Chinese firms are used to spy for Beijing -- allegations which China denies -- and has piled pressure on allies to cut Huawei from their internet infrastructure.
Britain in July banned mobile providers from using equipment made by Huawei in their new 5G networks, and gave companies in the UK until 2027 to remove Huawei equipment.
France has also placed heavy restrictions on the use of equipment by Huawei.
China's embassy in Stockholm responded to the ban by noting that "some people in Sweden have been hyping up claims that equipment from Chinese companies... poses an alleged 'national security threat'", but said these claims were not backed by "real credible evidence."
A spokesperson for the embassy called on the Swedish government to review its decision.
"We are...firmly opposed to the exclusion of specific companies from specific countries, and to the suppression of Chinese companies on groundless charges," an embassy spokesperson said in a statement.
Asked if the ban might hurt Swedish-Chinese relations and cause China to retaliate by banning Swedish telecom equipment manufacturer Ericsson, Sweden's Minister for Digital Development Anders Ygeman said that "China is and will remain an important trading partner for Sweden."
"I believe and hope that Sweden's high security demands and expansion of modern telecommunications won't mean that we will have worsened relations to China," Ygeman told news agency TT.
Tuesday's ban came as PTS announced it had approved four applications for Sweden's 5G spectrum auctions planned to start on November 10.
The four companies, all Swedish, are Hi3G Access, Net4Mobility, Telia Sweden and Teracom.