UPDATE: GSMA has now been cancelled MWC due to the coronavirus. According to the FT, a spokesperson said that “global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event”.
The novel coronavirus outbreak has had a host of unexpected knock-on impacts, chief among which is the spate of cancellations that have hit Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona 2020.
Described by its organisers GSMA as “the largest mobile event in the world”, MWC is normally a must-attend event for all the key players in the technology and telecoms industries, but this year the coronavirus has put a serious spanner in the works.
GSMA has introduced strict measures to prevent the spread of the disease, including banning travellers from the Hubei province of China, where coronavirus is most widespread, as well as implementing temperature screening and requiring proof that visitors have not been in China within the previous 14 days. MWC will also see increased levels of cleaning and disinfection, as well as a step-up in medical support.
However, this has not been enough to reassure many companies. Over the past week, a number of major exhibitors have announced that they are pulling out of MWC over fears that their attendance will expose their staff, customers and partners to the coronavirus.
But who has said they will and won’t be attending? Here is our list of the companies that have pulled out, which will be kept updated up to the start of the event on 24 February.
MWC 2020 coronavirus cancellations so far
- A10 Networks
- Dali Wireless
- Deutsche Telekom
- HMD Global
- Interop Technologies
- KMW Communications
- LG Electronics
- NTT Docomo
- Rakuten and Rakuten Viber
- Royole Corporation
- TCL Communication (partial)
- VIAVI Solutions
- ZTE (partial)
Here are the full details and statement for each company:
Cybersecurity company A10 Networks reversed an enthusiastic PR push for MWC when it announced it was cancelling its attendance on 11 February.
“Out of the utmost caution and concern for the well-being of our employees, partners and customers, we have made the decision to pull out of MWC 2020 in Barcelona this year,” the company said.
“The growing concern about the spread of the Coronavirus and the fact that there is no known vaccine at this point has driven the decision to keep our employees at home to reduce the risk of exposure from travel and large crowds.”
Canadian performance analytics company Accedian announced that it was joining the growing list of MWC cancellations on 10 February, citing coronavirus fears.
“After careful consideration, we have taken the decision to withdraw from MWC 2020,” said Dion Joannou, CEO, Accedian.
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“This was not a decision taken lightly. We’ve been extensively following the development of the virus and the recommendations of the WHO, and we have come to the conclusion that we must take the necessary precautions to protect our most cherished and valued assets: our employees.”
Communications software provider Amdocs announced its withdrawal from MWC on 10 February.
“In the face of the public health concern from the novel coronavirus, we are placing the highest priority on protecting the health of our employees, customers and partners,” said Shuky Sheffer, CEO of Amdocs.
“While we appreciate the precautionary measures put into place by the GSMA, we believe the safest option is not to attend MWC 2020 in Barcelona.”
US tech giant Amazon confirmed on 10 February that it would not be attending MWC.
“Due to the outbreak and continued concerns about novel coronavirus, Amazon will withdraw from exhibiting and participating in Mobile World Congress 2020,” the company said.
Mobile marketing analytics and attribution platform AppsFlyer joined the MWC cancellations pile on 11 February, citing concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
“The decision to cancel our attendance was made with a heavy heart, but with the welfare of many people in mind,” said Ran Avrahamy, CMO of AppsFlyer.
“Not just the fifty-plus members of staff who were scheduled to represent us in Barcelona and their many colleagues across the world, but our clients, customers and friends in the industry as well. While it is a tough decision to make, we know we’re doing what’s right given the available information. We look forward to coming back again in full force next year.”
Arcep, the French Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Posts, confirmed to Reuters on 11 February that it too would not be attending MWC due to the coronavirus.
Arcep’s President, Sebastien Soriano, had been set to attend and answer questions in a media briefing on 25 February.
US telecoms giant AT&T confirmed on 11 February that it would no longer be attending – a particular blow given Anne Chow, CEO of AT&T Business, was set to give a keynote at the event.
“After careful discussions and planning, we have decided that we will not participate in GSMA Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2020,” a company representative told CNET.
“We value our participation in important industry groups like GSMA and deeply respect the steps they have already taken to protect attendees. Unfortunately, the most responsible decision is to withdraw our participation from the event to safeguard our employees and customers.”
British telecoms giant BT announced on 12 February that it would be joining the list of MWC cancellations over the coronavirus.
“After careful discussions and planning, BT have decided that we will not attend GSMA Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2020,” a spokesman told Reuters.
“We value our participation in important industry groups like GSMA and deeply respect the steps they have already taken to protect attendees. Unfortunately, the most responsible decision is to withdraw our participation from the event to safeguard our employees and customers.”
US telecoms supplier Ciena joined the list of MWC coronavirus cancellations on 11 February, citing employee health concerns.
“We have been closely monitoring the situation and, in order to best safeguard the health and wellbeing of our employees, customers and partners, we have made the difficult decision to withdraw our participation in MWC 2020. We appreciate the extensive efforts and precautionary measures put in place by the GSMA, and we look forward to participating in future events with them,” said Gary Smith, president and CEO of Ciena.
Having previously said that it would still attend, technology multinational Cisco announced on 11 February that it had decided to join the growing list of MWC cancellations over the coronavirus.
“We have made the difficult decision to withdraw from participating in Mobile World Congress scheduled for Feb 24-27 in Barcelona due to concerns about the current outbreak of coronavirus,” the company said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“We continue to keep those directly impacted by this situation in our thoughts and prayers.”
Fixed-line infrastructure company Commscope took the decision to cancel its attendance at MWC on 10 February, saying that it was “exploring virtual trade show and meeting options” to show potential clients its products instead.
“With the continued global threat of the coronavirus, CommScope has made the decision to cancel our physical presence at Mobile World Congress 2020 in Barcelona,” the company said.
“This is not a decision our executive team took lightly, and although the likelihood of contracting the virus is low, we will not risk the health of our employees, nor the business impact that would result if a quarantine were ordered.”
US wireless company Dali Wireless announced on 10 February that it too would be joining the list of cancellations at MWC due to the risks associated with the coronavirus.
“This was not a decision we took lightly, but ultimately, it’s not worth us potentially exposing our employees to health and safety risks, or propagating the spread of the virus with international travel,” said Dr Albert Lee, CEO of Dali Wireless.
“We have been following the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) announcements and recommendations, and feel that it’s safer to ground all non-essential travel for the time being.”
German mobile operator Deutsche Telekom added its name to the list of MWC cancellations due to the Coronavirus in a tweet on 12 February.
“The decision was very difficult for us. The health of our employees and all of our guests there comes first. The MWC is a great fair. We are already looking forward to the next MWC,” the company said in the tweet in German.
Swedish technology giant and 5G infrastructure manufacturer Ericsson announced on 7 February that it was cancelling its attendance at MWC as it said it would be unable to “guarantee the health and safety of its employees and visitors”.
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We were looking forward to showcasing our latest innovations at MWC in Barcelona,” said Börje Ekholm, president and CEO of Ericsson.
“It is very unfortunate, but we strongly believe the most responsible business decision is to withdraw our participation from this year’s event.”
Enterprise app services provider F5 confirmed to Verdict on 11 February that the company would not be attending MWC.
“With the outbreak of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus, our attendance of Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2020 in Barcelona creates unnecessary risk to F5 staff, our partners, and our customers. After careful deliberation, we have decided to withdraw our presence at this year’s event. We believe this is the best decision for everyone’s health and welfare,” the company said in a statement.
The social network behemoth announced on 11 February that it would no longer attend MWC.
“Out of an abundance of caution, Facebook employees won’t be attending this year’s Mobile World Congress due to the evolving public health risks related to coronavirus,” a company spokesman said Tuesday in a statement. “We will continue to collaborate with the GSMA and our partners and thank them for their efforts.”
HMD Global, the company that manufactures phones for Nokia, announced on 12 February that it too would be cancelling its attendance at MWC.
“MWC Barcelona has always been a key event in our annual calendar and we were very excited to showcase our new products to our partners, customers, media and fans. However, the health and safety of our employees, customers, and stakeholders is our highest priority,” the company said in a statement announcing the decision.
“We believe the prudent decision is to cancel our participation at Mobile World Congress and want to express our sincere thanks to the GSMA and other authorities for their tireless efforts to address the challenges resulting from Covid-19, and they have our full support as they move forward.”
US communications solutions provider iconectiv announced its decision to withdraw from MWC on 10 February over coronavirus-related safety concerns.
“After closely monitoring the spread of the novel coronavirus and in reviewing travel recommendations from world health organizations, iconectiv has decided to withdraw its attendance at MWC Barcelona and all related events as we believe it is in the best interest of our employees to do so,” the company said in a statement.
“As the largest telecom event in the world, MWC draws more than 100,000 attendees from nearly 200 countries. The sheer size and global nature of the event makes it difficult to ensure the health and safety of our team members, which is our top priority.”
Hardware giant Intel announced that it would join many of its contemporaries in cancelling its attendance at MWC on 10 February, citing coronavirus-related safety fears.
“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 Intel in a statement.
“We are grateful to the GSMA for their understanding and look forward to attending and supporting future Mobile World Congress events.”
Mobile and video technology developer InterDigital joined the growing number of cancellations at MWC on 10 February, citing “concerns over the continued coronavirus outbreak”.
“InterDigital has a very proud history at Mobile World Congress: over the years we’ve taken advantage of the event to unveil numerous world’s firsts in communications technology, and this year we were excited to show some groundbreaking demos including a working 6G platform. However, nothing is more important to us than the health and welfare of our employees,” said William J Merritt, president and CEO of InterDigital.
“We’ll be reaching out to our various stakeholders to discuss better means of bringing our new technologies to them and engaging in the important discussions that always take place in Barcelona.”
Interop, a provider of managed services for mobile network operators, confirmed on 11 February that it would be joining the MWC cancellations over the coronavirus.
“While this was an extremely difficult decision to make, ultimately the health and safety of our global employees, customers and partners is our number one priority,” said John Dwyer, president and CEO of Interop Technologies.
“We are very appreciative to the GSMA for taking several efforts to reduce potential risks, however with the volume of meetings and events we had scheduled at the show, it would prove difficult to ensure everyone’s safety. We are committed to maintaining our presence at future MWC shows and our involvement in GSMA’s Future Networks initiatives.”
KMW confirmed to Verdict on 12 February that it had decided to pull out of MWC over the coronavirus.
“The health and safety of our employees, partners, and the general public is our top priority. This decision did not come easy but it was a way to protect everyone involved,” the company said in a statement.
Korean electronics manufacturer LG announced on 5 February that it was cancelling its attendance at MWC in order to reduce the risks to its employees.
“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.”
A representative of the cybersecurity firm told Verdict in an email that McAfee had decided to cancel its attendance at MWC, citing health and safety concerns over the coronavirus.
“As with any exhibit, our first priority is the health and safety of both our employees and partners,” said the company spokesperson.
“Due to our continued concerns about novel coronavirus, McAfee has decided to withdraw from exhibiting and participating in Mobile World Congress 2020.”
Taiwanese semiconductor company MediaTek confirmed that it too was joining the list of MWC cancellations over the coronavirus in an email to Richard Lai, Chinese editor-in-chief of Engadget, which he posted on Twitter.
“MediaTek has been following the novel coronavirus (nCoV) closely. After careful assessment, MediaTek decided to withdraw from MWC Barcelona 2020 for employees, customers and partners’ health and safety concern,” the company wrote.
Japanese telco NTT Docomo announced that it would no longer be attending MWC on 10 February, becoming the first major service provider to join the cancellations pile over coronavirus concerns.
“At present, the impact of the new coronavirus is expanding, and we were planning to exhibit from February 24 (Monday) to February 27 (Thursday) 2020,” said the company.
“In consideration of the safety of the visitors, partner companies and staff members, we decided to cancel the exhibition.”
On 12 February Finnish hardware giant Nokia became the latest high-profile name to join the list of MWC cancellations due to the coronavirus, saying that it planned to replace its attendance with a series of “Nokia Live” events “aimed at showcasing the industry-leading demos and launches scheduled for MWC”.
“While the health and safety of our employees is our absolute priority, we also recognize that we have a responsibility to the industry and our customers. In view of this, we have taken the necessary time to evaluate a fast-moving situation, engage with the GSMA and other stakeholders, regularly consult external experts and authorities, and plan to manage risks based on a wide range of scenarios,” the company said in a statement.
“The conclusion of that process is that we believe the prudent decision is to cancel our participation at Mobile World Congress. We want to express our thanks to the GSMA, the governments of China and Spain as well as Catalonia’s Generalitat, and many others who have worked tirelessly to address the challenges resulting from the novel coronavirus, and they have our full support as they move forward.”
Graphics heavyweight Nvidia announced on 7 February that it was cancelling its attendance at MWC over coronavirus fears.
“Given public health risks around the coronavirus, ensuring the safety of our colleagues, partners and customers is our highest concern,” the company said in a statement.
“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.”
Broadband wireless solutions provider Radwin confirmed to a number of outlets on 11 February that it was joining the growing MWC cancellations list over the coronavirus.
The company has also removed reference to the conference from its website’s upcoming events listing.
Rakuten and Rakuten Viber
Japanese electronics giant Rakuten, which serves as a mobile operator under the sub-company Rakuten mobile, confirmed on 12 February that it too would join the list of cancellations at MWC over the coronavirus. A spokesperson for Rakuten-owned messaging service Viber confirmed to Verdict that it was covered by the decision.
“Due to concerns about the novel corona virus and in the interests of the health and safety of our employees, Rakuten has decided to withdraw its participation in Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2020,” the company said in a statement.
Royole, a US-based manufacturer of consumer devices, announced on 11 February that it was cancelling its attendance at MWC, and would instead announce its new folding smartphone, the FlexPai 2, in the run up to the event.
“With the safety and wellbeing of our employees, partners and customers being our first priority, we have made the difficult decision to withdraw our attendance from MWC this year,” said Dr Bill Liu, founder and CEO Royole Corporation.
“It is a shame we are unable to participate in MWC 2020 and use this platform to showcase a new ground-breaking foldable phone, the FlexPai 2, instead we will announce it to the world soon prior to MWC.”
Japanese technology giant Sony announced that it was be cancelling its attendance on 10 February, adding that it would instead hold a press conference via its YouTube channel.
“As we place the utmost importance on the safety and wellbeing 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,” the company said in a statement.
British telecoms multinational Spirent announced on 11 February that it was joining the list of MWC cancellations over the coronavirus “out of an abundance of caution and concern” in a post on Twitter.
“We deeply regret not being able to attend this important event, but as more details emerge about the growing coronavirus outbreak, safety is out paramount concern,” the company wrote.
“In the coming weeks, we will provide an update on our latest 5G testing, assurance and security innovation developments, and look forward to rejoining out industry colleagues at a future event.”
US telecoms giant Sprint Corporation announced on 11 February that it would also not be attending MWC, a decision confirmed by Reuters.
Global semiconductor company STMicroelectronics announced on 12 February that it was cancelling its attendance at both MWC and Embedded World Nuremberg, which is set to be held on 25 – 27 February. However, the company intends to still hold an invite-only event for media and analysts at MWC, hosted by “ST executive management”, which will also be broadcast from its website.
“STMicroelectronics has been closely following the situation related to the novel coronavirus outbreak in China and has taken a number of precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of its employees worldwide,” the company said in a statement.
“As an additional measure, the company has taken the decision to withdraw from exhibiting at MWC 2020 in Barcelona and at Embedded World in Nuremberg later this month.”
TCL Communication (partial)
On 10 February, Chinese electronics manufacturing heavyweight TCL announced that it would be cancelling its press conference at MWC, but would still be attending as an exhibitor, opting to keep its booth for the duration of the event.
“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, which was planned for 22 February 2020,” the company said in a statement.
“TCL is grateful to the GSMA for their most recent guidance and update regarding the potential impact of the 2019-nCoV virus on MWC 2020 and will continue to follow their updates, monitor this situation closely, and share further updates as necessary.”
Teleplan, a global provider of consumer electronics after-market services, announced on 12 February that it too would be cancelling its MWC attendance.
“Due to the outbreak of Covid-19 we have taken the decision to withdraw from MWC20. The health of our employees & customers is paramount & our choice was made to ensure this,” the company wrote in a tweet.
“We thank GSMA for their support & hope to return to MWC in 2021.”
Ulefone, a Chinese manufacturer of rugged smartphones, announced on 10 February that it would not be attending MWC.
“Following the outbreak and continued spreading of the novel coronavirus, Ulefone decides to withdraw from this year’s Mobile World Congress for ensuring the safety of our colleagues, partners and customers,” the company wrote in a statement posted to Twitter.
“We’re grateful for GSMA’s leadership and continued efforts to ensure the safety of all attendees. And we’re looking forward to seeing you in the next year’s Mobile World Congress.
Chinese smartphone manufacturer UMIDIGI announced that the company would be among the MWC coronavirus cancellations in a tweet on 10 February.
“At UMIDIGI we prefer to keep our employees working on a safe and quarantine environment, to respect all the other people around our world,” the company wrote.
Test and measurement company VIAVI Solutions announced on 8 February that it would be cancelling its attendance at MWC.
“After reviewing all available data, VIAVI has chosen to cancel participation in this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona out of an abundance of caution and concern for our employees, customers and partners. VIAVI remains excited about its powerful suite of 5G solutions,” the company said in a statement.
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Vivo announced that it was cancelling its attendance at MWC 2020 on 11 February.
“Vivo has been closely monitoring the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia (NCP) outbreak and continuously evaluating planned activities,” the company said in an email to Android Authority.
“The health and safety of our employees and the public are our top priority. Based on the present situation, we have decided to withdraw from our debut at MWC 2020 and other related events later this month in Barcelona, Spain.”
Mobile giant Vodafone Group confirmed that it would no longer be attending MWC on 12 February, citing coronavirus concerns.
“While the potential risk is hard to quantify accurately at this stage, we have taken this decision because we place the utmost importance in the safety and wellbeing of our employees, customers and partners,” the company said in a tweeted statement.
“We look forward to attending the next Mobile World Congress as one of the flagship events of the year for the communications and technology industries.”
Chinese phone manufacturer ZTE announced on 4 February that it would be cancelling its press conference at MWC, but would keep its booth at the event.
“The ZTE Devices Press conference scheduled on February 25, which is just one of multiple planned activities, was cancelled. A wide variety of new 5G devices will be demonstrated at the ZTE booth during MWC 2020 as planned,” the company told The Verge in an email.
The companies still planning to attend MWC
While MWC has thousands of attendees, Verdict has reached out to high profile exhibitors to see if they still plan to attend given the spate of coronavirus-related cancellations. Here are the ones that have confirmed that they still plan to be at the event this year.
Cisco US technology giant Cisco confirmed on 7 February that it planned to attend MWC, although indicated that it may change its mind if the situation with the coronavirus warrants it.
“Based on current official advice, and our discussions with event producers GSMA, at this time we expect to be able to participate as planned,” the company said in an email to Verdict.
“We are tracking this situation closely and will continue to review our guidance.”
Update: Cisco took the decision to cancel on 11 February.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)
Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which will be focusing on its internet of things (IoT), Wi-Fi 5 and 5G-related offerings, confirmed on 11 February that it was currently planning to attend despite the coronavirus.
“We continue to monitor developments with regard to coronavirus and take all appropriate precautions to safeguard the health of our team members,” the company said in an email to Verdict.
“At this time, HPE will attend Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. We will revisit this decision if warranted as the event gets closer.”
Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKDC)
An MWC promoted exhibitor that will be bringing a delegation of companies from Hong Kong, HKDC confirmed to Verdict on 11 February that it would still be attending the event, despite concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
HKDC said that it would implement additional measures on site and at the Hong Kong Tech Pavilion, including providing hand sanitisers and surgical masks as required, providing exhibitors with temperature checking equipment and conducting additional cleaning and disinfection.
“HKTDC is closely monitoring the situation and will stringently take appropriate measures in line with the guidelines of the MWC organiser, WHO and other health authorities,” the organisation said.
Chinese technology giant Huawei confirmed on 7 February that it did still plan to attend, indicating that many of its attendees would come from its 12,000-strong pool of Europe-based employees.
“We are working with GSMA on preventative measures to help contain the spread of the 2019-nCoV virus. The health and safety of our employees and other attendees is our top priority for this event,” the company said.
Venture captial firm JC2 Ventures, whose CEO & founder John Chambers is giving a keynote at MWC, confirmed to Verdict on 12 February that it still plans to attend.
“As of now, the JC2 Ventures team, including John Chambers, plan to attend MWC. The team will follow the precautionary safety measures laid out by the organizers,” a company spokesperson wrote.
Internet metrics giant Ookla, the company responsible for the leading online speedtest, confirmed to Verdict on 7 February that it was “still attending MWC Barcelona as planned”.
“We are encouraging our staff to follow health best practices per CDC official recommendations,” the company said.
Rohde & Schwarz
A German developer of communications technologies and an MWC promoted exhibitor, Rohde & Schwarz confirmed to Verdict on 7 February that the company would still be attending the MWC “as planned”.
“We have taken all precautions to protect our employees and customers there,” the company said.