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GSMA confirms Ericsson pulling out of MWC could have further impact on the show

Swedish telecoms titan Ericsson is the latest company to pull out of Mobile World Congress 2020 because of the coronavirus outbreak. In a statement on Friday morning, February 7, Ericsson confirmed it would not be attending MWC this year due to concerns over employee and customer health and safety — and the GSMA has confirmed this latest cancellation could have a further impact on the event.

“The health and safety of our employees, customers, and other stakeholders are our highest priority,” said Ericsson president and CEO Börje Ekholm. “This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We were looking forward to showcasing our latest innovations at MWC in Barcelona. It is very unfortunate, but we strongly believe the most responsible business decision is to withdraw our participation from this year’s event.”

Instead of attending MWC 2020, Ericsson has taken the decision to take the demos and content intended for the trade show to various home markets with a number of local events called “Ericsson Unboxed”.

This latest cancellation is likely to be a real thorn in the side of the GSMA, which runs MWC. The GSMA has already put out a statement on Ericsson’s departure, where it mentions Ericsson’s decision to pull out “will have some impact on our presence at this time and will potentially have further impact.” While the rest of the statement goes on to highlight what’s being done to curb the potential spread of the coronavirus, the tone itself is bleak.

LG has also made the decision not to attend MWC 2020 Image used with permission by copyright holder

Why so bleak? Well, Ericsson isn’t the only company to have made this decision. ZTE was the first company to make the decision to skip the Barcelona trade show. While it confirmed to Digital Trends it would still have a booth at the event, the coronavirus outbreak meant it was unwilling to hold its usual press conference, citing increased difficulty getting visas as well as the potential health risks to customers and employees as the principal reasoning behind the sudden cancellation. A day later, LG also confirmed it would not be attending MWC, claiming it did not think it wise to expose hundreds of LG employees to international travel against the advice of most health experts.

The GSMA has placed a number of additional safeguards in place to hopefully stem the potential spread of the virus, including increasing cleaning, first aid facilities on site, and recommendations for nearby hotels, transport companies, and restaurants. However, ZTE, LG, and now Ericsson are clearly adopting a “better safe than sorry” approach, and are refusing to risk employee and customer health. While Ericsson may no longer produce smartphones, its refusal to attend in a year when 5G is so important may be a larger blow to MWC than LG’s cancellation, according to Digital Trends’ Andy Boxall.

Ericsson may not make phones, but in a year when 5G is so important, it not going to #MWC2020 because of #coronavirus is arguably a bigger deal than LG.
Take a moment to read the strongly worded statement too. What's the @GSMA's next move here?

— Andy Boxall (@AndyBoxall) February 7, 2020

Could Mobile World Congress be canceled this year? It’s entirely possible. With the coronavirus not yet contained and the number of infected still rising, this situation has the potential to grow.

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