The largest telecomms showcase in the world, Mobile World Congress (MWC), has been cancelled because of fears it could facilitate the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Over the past few weeks, several major companies set to attend the event, such as Amazon and Sony, had pulled out citing safety fears for their staff members.
A spokesperson for phone giant Nokia explained why the company dropped out of the event on Wednesday (12th February 2020), saying: “Primary focus has been to safeguard the health and well-being of employees and others while also recognising a responsibility to the industry and customers.”
In a statement made by host of the event, GMSA, CEO John Hoffman said: “With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event.”
The GSMA represents more than 750 operators around the world, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies.
Sharon McKendry, head of science and technology at Scottish Enterprise said: “Clearly it is disappointing that Mobile World Congress (MWC) has been cancelled for this year but public safety is the top priority and everyone impacted will undoubtedly understand the rationale for this decision.
“In the absence of MWC, we and our partners will be looking to maximise other opportunities to showcase Scotland’s tech industry globally and help minimise any impact.”
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As of Monday (10th February 2020), the event was still set to go ahead, with the GSMA confirming that enough people would still be attending.
Adrian Drozd, Frost & Sullivan’s ICT Research Director, commented on the cancellation: “I’m very glad it’s been cancelled. With the number of companies dropping out, it was already untenable. If the GSMA had forged ahead, they risked being held responsible for a major outbreak.
“The GSMA were left in an impossible situation. The financial fallout will only really be known over the coming weeks. GSMA will likely be the biggest loser, followed by the major exhibitors that invest tens of millions in the event. Smaller vendors may be hit hardest – many will spend a significant proportion of their travel/event budget on MWC in the hope of making valuable connections into their operator.”
Up to 100,000 people attend the event each year, with around 6,000 attendees visiting from China.
The number of confirmed cases of the virus stands at more than 60,000, and almost 1,400 people have died from the disease according to recent figures.