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Sweden ends 5G sale after one day

Technology correspondent

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Operators in Sweden detailed plans for widespread 5G rollouts, after auctions of suitable spectrum were closed following a single day of bidding which netted the nation SEK2.3 billion ($275.5 million), writes Diana Gooverts.

In a statement, the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) noted all 320MHz at 3.5GHz was assigned, with Telia securing 120MHz for SEK760.2 million; Net4Mobility (a joint initiative by Tele2 and Telenor’s local units) 100MHz for SEK665.5 million; and Hi3G 100MHz for SEK491.2 million.

Teracom Group took all 80MHz on offer in the 2.3GHz band for SEK400 million.

The sales commenced yesterday (19 January) and closed after four rounds of bidding.

Ambitions
In a joint statement, Tele2 and Telenor said the combination of 3.5GHz with existing 700MHz stock would enable Net4Mobility to expand its 5G network nationwide and conduct “a significant upgrade” of its 4G network.

Kaaren Hilsen, CEO of Telenor Sweden, said “our ambition is to bring 5G to 99 percent of consumers within three years”.

Ericsson and Nokia were selected as equipment vendors for the expansion project, which Tele2 CTIO Yogesh Malik said would involve adding thousands of new base stations, along with upgrades to existing sites.

Telia hailed the spectrum as a “critical asset that will lay the groundwork for the continued expansion of 5G across Sweden”. It noted the 3.5GHz band will be “especially important” for providing coverage in densely populated areas and connecting factories, ports and health-care facilities.

Diana Gooverts joined Mobile World Live as its US Editor in September 2017, reporting on infrastructure and spectrum rollouts, regulatory issues, and other carrier news from the US market.

coronavirus

Commission approves €1.4 billion Swedish scheme to support uncovered fixed costs of companies affected by coronavirus outbreak

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission has approved an approximately €1.4 billion (SEK 14bn) Swedish scheme to support the uncovered fixed costs of companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Swedish companies have experienced a significant decline in their revenues because of the restrictive measures put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. This €1.4bn scheme will enable Sweden to support companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak, by helping them cover their fixed costs that are not covered by their revenues. We continue working in close cooperation with member states to find workable solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, in line with EU rules.”

The Swedish support measure

Sweden notified to the Commission an approximately €1.4 billion (SEK 14 billion) scheme to further support companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak under the Temporary Framework.

Under the scheme, the public support will take the form of direct grants. The scheme will be open to companies active in all sectors except the financial sector. The scheme covers three eligible periods: (i) August–October 2020, (ii) November–December 2020, and (iii) January–February 2021. The aid will be granted to companies that suffered a turnover decline exceeding 40% in the period August-October 2020 or 30% in each of the periods November-December 2020 and January-February 2021, compared to the same periods in 2019. The beneficiaries will receive grants covering up to 70% of their uncovered fixed costs during the eligible periods. In the case of micro and small enterprises, the grants will cover up to 75% of the uncovered fixed costs with regard to the period August-October 2020, or 90% in the other periods.

The purpose of the scheme is to mitigate the economic difficulties and the sudden liquidity shortages that the beneficiaries are facing due to the restrictive measures imposed by the Swedish government to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The Commission found that the Swedish scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €10 million per company; (ii) will cover uncovered fixed costs incurred during a period comprised between 1 March 2020 and 31 December 2021; and (iii) will be granted before 31 December 2021.

The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework.

On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU State aid rules.

Background

The Commission has adopted a Temporary Framework to enable member states to use the full flexibility foreseen under State aid rules to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The Temporary Framework, as amended on 3 April, 8 May, 29 June, 13 October 2020 and 28 January 2021, provides for the following types of aid, which can be granted by Member States:

(i) Direct grants, equity injections, selective tax advantages and advance payments of up to €225,000 to a company active in the primary agricultural sector, €270,000 to a company active in the fishery and aquaculture sector and €1.8 million to a company active in all other sectors to address its urgent liquidity needs. Member States can also give, up to the nominal value of €1.8 million per company zero-interest loans or guarantees on loans covering 100% of the risk, except in the primary agriculture sector and in the fishery and aquaculture sector, where the limits of €225,000 and €270,000 per company respectively, apply.

(ii) State guarantees for loans taken by companies to ensure banks keep providing loans to the customers who need them. These state guarantees can cover up to 90% of risk on loans to help businesses cover immediate working capital and investment needs.

(iii) Subsidised public loans to companies (senior and subordinated debt) with favourable interest rates to companies. These loans can help businesses cover immediate working capital and investment needs.

(iv) Safeguards for banks that channel State aid to the real economy that such aid is considered as direct aid to the banks' customers, not to the banks themselves, and gives guidance on how to ensure minimal distortion of competition between banks.

(v) Public short-term export credit insurance for all countries, without the need for the Member State in question to demonstrate that the respective country is temporarily “non-marketable”.

(vi) Support for coronavirus related research and development (R&D) to address the current health crisis in the form of direct grants, repayable advances or tax advantages. A bonus may be granted for cross-border cooperation projects between Member States.

(vii) Support for the construction and upscaling of testing facilities to develop and test products (including vaccines, ventilators and protective clothing) useful to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, up to first industrial deployment. This can take the form of direct grants, tax advantages, repayable advances and no-loss guarantees. Companies may benefit from a bonus when their investment is supported by more than one Member State and when the investment is concluded within two months after the granting of the aid.

(viii) Support for the production of products relevant to tackle the coronavirus outbreak in the form of direct grants, tax advantages, repayable advances and no-loss guarantees. Companies may benefit from a bonus when their investment is supported by more than one Member State and when the investment is concluded within two months after the granting of the aid.

(ix) Targeted support in the form of deferral of tax payments and/or suspensions of social security contributions for those sectors, regions or for types of companies that are hit the hardest by the outbreak.

(x) Targeted support in the form of wage subsidies for employees for those companies in sectors or regions that have suffered most from the coronavirus outbreak, and would otherwise have had to lay off personnel.

(xi) Targeted recapitalisation aid to non-financial companies, if no other appropriate solution is available. Safeguards are in place to avoid undue distortions of competition in the Single Market: conditions on the necessity, appropriateness and size of intervention; conditions on the State's entry in the capital of companies and remuneration; conditions regarding the exit of the State from the capital of the companies concerned; conditions regarding governance including dividend ban and remuneration caps for senior management; prohibition of cross-subsidisation and acquisition ban and additional measures to limit competition distortions; transparency and reporting requirements.

(xii) Support for uncovered fixed costs for companies facing a decline in turnover during the eligible period of at least 30% compared to the same period of 2019 in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The support will contribute to a part of the beneficiaries' fixed costs that are not covered by their revenues, up to a maximum amount of €10 million per undertaking.

The Commission will also enable member states to convert until 31 December 2022 repayable instruments (e.g. guarantees, loans, repayable advances) granted under the Temporary Framework into other forms of aid, such as direct grants, provided the conditions of the Temporary Framework are met.

The Temporary Framework enables member states to combine all support measures with each other, except for loans and guarantees for the same loan and exceeding the thresholds foreseen by the Temporary Framework. It also enables member states to combine all support measures granted under the Temporary Framework with existing possibilities to grant de minimis to a company of up to €25,000 over three fiscal years for companies active in the primary agricultural sector, €30,000 over three fiscal years for companies active in the fishery and aquaculture sector and €200,000 over three fiscal years for companies active in all other sectors. At the same time, member states have to commit to avoid undue cumulation of support measures for the same companies to limit support to meet their actual needs.

Furthermore, the Temporary Framework complements the many other possibilities already available to Member States to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, in line with EU State aid rules. On 13 March 2020, the Commission adopted a Communication on a Coordinated economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak setting out these possibilities. For example, Member States can make generally applicable changes in favour of businesses (e.g. deferring taxes, or subsidising short-time work across all sectors), which fall outside State Aid rules. They can also grant compensation to companies for damage suffered due to and directly caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Temporary Framework will be in place until the end of December 2021. With a view to ensuring legal certainty, the Commission will assess before this date if it needs to be extended.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.60275 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.

More information on the Temporary Framework and other action the Commission has taken to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here.

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Huawei

Sweden begins 5G auction despite Huawei protests

General News

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Sweden’s communications regulator began its delayed auction of 5G-suitable frequencies, a move Huawei warned last week would have serious consequences as the vendor still had outstanding legal action contesting its ban.

In a statement, the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) said its auction for licences in the 3.5GHz band started today (19 January) with a 2.3GHz sale to follow. It is auctioning 320MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum and 80MHz of 2.3GHz.

The start of the sale comes days after Huawei lost its latest appeal related to the imposition of auction conditions which ban bidding operators using equipment from it or rival ZTE.

Huawei has two other pieces of legal action on the issue outstanding.

In a comment to Mobile World Live issued on 15 January following the failure of its latest appeal, a Huawei representative confirmed its “two main” court cases on the issue were not expected to be ruled on until the end of April.

The company added: “It leads to serious consequences to hold the 5G auction while the conditions for PTS decisions are subject to legal review.”

Sweden’s spectrum auction was originally meant to take place in November 2020, but was postponed after a court suspended the application some of the divisive terms of sale pending a hearing into them.

PTS’ terms were subsequently cleared by the court of appeal, opening the way for the auction to proceeded.

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Brexit

Brexit ‘teething problems’ and coronavirus pose issues for Britons flying to EU

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Travellers heading for Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden have been held up at borders following the UK’s departure from the single market (PA)

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