In two weeks Mobile World Congress (MWC) will be kicking off in Barcelona. Despite being the world's largest mobile conference, it is looking to be quieter this year with a number of major companies pulling out due to coronavirus concerns.
In early February LG and ZTE announced they would be pairing back their presence at MWC, with the latter cancelling its press conference and LG pulling out altogether. This resulted in a snowball effect, with more companies now removing themselves from the show.
This is who has pulled out or scaled back so far.
ZTE was the first company to change its MWC plans by cancelling its press conference. The company cited travel and visa delays as the primary reasons, though it also hinted at xenophobia playing a part.
"[We] tend to be an overly courteous company, and simply don’t want to make people uncomfortable,” said a ZTE representative to The Verge.
LG announced its departure on the same day as ZTE, naming health and safety as its reason.
"With the safety of its employees, partners and customers foremost in mind, LG has decided to withdraw from exhibiting and participating in MWC 2020 later this month in Barcelona, Spain," said the company in a statement.
"This decision removes the risk of exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel which has already become more restrictive as the virus continues to spread across borders. In lieu of its participation in MWC, LG will be holding separate events in the near future to announce its 2020 mobile products."
Ericsson pulling out is a big of a big deal, particularly in regards to 5G technology. The company has stated that instead of exhibiting at MWC 2020 it will be showing off its demo in local markets in events titled Ericsson Unboxed.
"After an extensive internal risk assessment, Ericsson has decided to take further precautionary measures by withdrawing from MWC Barcelona 2020, the largest event in the telecom industry," said Ericsson in a statement.
"Ericsson appreciates that GSMA have done everything they can to control the risk. However, as one of the largest exhibitors, Ericsson has thousands of visitors in its hall each day and even if the risk is low, the company cannot guarantee the health and safety of its employees and visitors."
Despite being a major 5G partner, we understand that Ericsson's decision hasn't changed Telstra's plans for MWC at the present time.
Nvidia was the first U.S. company to pull out of the show. While not a mobile company, Nvidia was planning on attending MWC 2020 to show off some of its 5G, AI and vRAN work.
"Given public health risks around the coronavirus, ensuring the safety of our colleagues, partners and customers is our highest concern," said Nvidia in a press release.
"MWC Barcelona is one of the world’s most important technology conferences. We’ve been looking forward to sharing our work in AI, 5G and vRAN with the industry. We regret not attending, but believe this is the right decision."
It's currently unclear if the planned Nvidia Sessions have also been cancelled.
At the time of writing Amazon was the most recent company to pull out of MWC. Despite being a huge global brand, its presence in Barcelona generally isn't massive, so it shouldn't make too much of an impact.
"Due to the outbreak and continued concerns about the new coronavirus, Amazon will withdraw from exhibiting and participating in Mobile World Congress 2020,” the company said in a statement.
At the moment Samsung will still have a booth at the show, though as CNET reported, it may be halting closed-doors deals between executives.
Samsung also has its Unpacked launch this week for the launch of the Galaxy S20 and Flip Z. This event is still going ahead, but the company did send an email to attendees to outline the safety precautions being taken. This includes had sanitiser stations, as well as thermal imaging cameras.
Sony has also decided to completely withdraw from MWC 2020. Instead, it will be holding a press conference on the Xperia YouTube channel. The company was most likely going to reveal the Xperia 5 Plus.
"As we place the utmost importance on the safety and well-being of our customers, partners, media and employees, we have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from exhibiting and participating at MWC 2020 in Barcelona, Spain," said Sony in a statement.
TCL, the parent company of entry-level phone brand Alcatel, isn't ditching MWC altogether. However, like ZTE it has cancelled its press conference.
"Given the recent global health concerns due to the spread of the 2019-nCoV virus, and out of an abundance of caution and care for our staff, customers, press and other guests, TCL Communication is cancelling its global press event for MWC 2020," said TCL in a statement.
"This decision does not impact any other MWC 2020 activities planned by the company and TCL will still announce its latest mobile devices and showcase them at its booth."
While Intel is expected to still make some announcements during MWC 2020, it will no longer have a physical presence at the show.
"The safety and wellbeing of all our employees and partners is our top priority, and we have withdrawn from this year’s Mobile World Congress out of an abundance of caution," said a representative in a statement. "We are grateful to the GSMA for their understanding and look forward to attending and supporting future Mobile World Congress events."
GSMA Updates MWC Safety List
The GSMA, the company that organises MWC, has also issued an updated safeguard list for the show.
- All travellers from the Hubai province will not be permitted access to the event
- All travellers who have been in China will need to demonstrate proof they have been outside of China 14 days prior to the event (passport stamp, health certificate)
- Temperature screening will be implemented
- Attendees will need to self-certify they have not been in contact with anyone infected.
This is an expansion of the safety measures the organisation announced in early February:
- Increased cleaning and disinfection programme across all high-volume touchpoints, e.g. catering areas, surfaces, handrails, WCs, entrances/exits, public touch-screens, etc. along with the use of correct cleaning/sanitising materials and products
- Increased onsite medical support
- Awareness campaign via online and onsite info-share and signage
- Availability of sanitising and disinfection materials for public use
- Awareness and training to all staff and associates on standard personal preventative measures, e.g. personal hygiene, frequency of use of sanitising/disinfection products, etc.
- Advice to exhibitors on implementing effective cleaning and disinfection of stands, offices along with guidance on personal hygiene measures and common preventive behaviour
- Public health guidelines and advice communication to Barcelona hotels, public and private transport, restaurants and catering outlets, retail, etc.
- Measures added this week include;
- Installing new signage onsite reminding attendees of hygiene recommendations
- Implementing a mic change protocol in production for speakers
- Communicating advice to all attendees to adopt a ‘no-handshake policy’
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