Mobile World Congress is cancelled amid coronavirus concerns

Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2020, the world’s largest phone show has been cancelled due to fears of the coronavirus.

The GSM Association (GSMA) organisers of the annual event issued a cancellation notice on February 12.  In a statement, John Hoffman, CEO GSMA Limited wrote: “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”.

Mobile World Congress MWC is the largest gathering of phone manufacturers on the planet. Every year, brands from all over the world, come together to showcase their gadgets. MWC 2020 was to be held in Barcelona, Spain from February 24-27. This year’s event would have attracted about 100,000 people from over 200 countries.

Health advisories posted in Barcelona for MWC 2020. Image: Financial Times via Reuters.

The event’s cancellation follows a string of withdrawals by major brands. LG, ZTE, Nvidia, Intel, Sony, and Amazon all withdrew from this year’s gathering. Other brands Cisco, Facebook, McAfee and HMD also decided not to attend. Later, telecom networks Orange, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom joined the list of cancelled appearances. Many of these companies use the event to announce new products and services. However, coronavirus fears saw many companies exit the show in rapid succession.

MWC’s cancellation will have a substantial adverse economic impact on the area. The event creates approximately 14,000 temporary jobs and generates over 492 million euros for the city. Additionally, many smaller companies may be severely affected. The event provides an opportunity for more minuscule companies to network and gain brand awareness while showing off their wares. Without the massive platform, many may be scratching their heads as to what to do next.

Sony launched the Xperia 1 at MWC 2019. Image: Sony

According to a report by WIRED, the GSMA tried to convince the Spanish government to declare a health emergency so it could cancel the event. It seems that GSMA insurance would not cover losses if the entity cancelled the trade show on their own instead of being directed to do so by the government.

The cancellation may have been the smarter move. With many big names pulling out of the show, MWC would have suffered from a lower turnout. More importantly, despite the measures put in place by the Spanish government, the coronavirus is a severe health risk. The deadly coronavirus has infected over 49,000 persons and killed more than 1,300 to date, according to the World Health Organisation.