Mobile World Congress (MWC), the largest mobile event in the world, has been cancelled over coronavirus fears.

In a statement, event organisers the GSM Association (GSMA) said that the decision had been made as “the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event”.

“Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world,” added GSMA CEO John Hoffman.

This comes after several exhibitors, including Facebook, Amazon, Sony, Nokia and LG announced that they would be pulling out of the event.

Mobile World Congress cancelled: Industry reacts

The decision is likely to have been a devastating blow for GSMA, which had been expecting 25,000 exhibitors and 109,000 attendees at Mobile World Congress before it was cancelled.

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However, industry pressures have likely given the organisers little choice but to cancel.

“Once Ericsson canceled, I felt like the dominoes would fall and that if Nokia was next, the show would be cancelled. I at first thought this was all hysteria but I realised that what Ericsson originally said was true: it could not guarantee the safety of its employees. We just don’t know enough about this virus and how it’s transmitted,” said Lynnette Luna, principal analyst: global telecom consumer services platforms and devices for GlobalData.

“This is a blow to the wireless industry as the show sets the tone for the year. I suspect companies will find a way to get their message out, likely through briefings and even domestic events of their own.”

This perception was echoed by the wider industry.

“The GSMA has been a victim of circumstances out of its control and it’s a huge disappointment the show will not go ahead this year,” said Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight.

“Key members of the CCS Insight team have been attending this event for over 20 years and it’s the highlight of the mobile industry calendar. We are hugely disappointed the show is not going ahead but respect the need to consider the wellbeing of delegates as a result of coronavirus.”

The number of novel coronavirus cases in mainland China has reached over 44,000 and nine people have been infected with the virus. The number of deaths has now exceeded 1000.

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Last year, more than 109,000 people from 198 countries and territories attended Mobile World Congress.


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