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Nokia and HMD Global won’t be in Barcelona. Will coronavirus cancel MWC 2020?

Several companies have confirmed that, because of the ongoing spread of the coronavirus crisis, they will not be attending Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Coronavirus has already killed more than 1,100 people and infected more than 45,000, and its spread has yet to be contained. Some companies have closed their offices in the region — a trend that’s likely to continue over the coming weeks.

Citing fears for the health and safety of customers, employees, and shareholders alike, many companies, including LG, ZTE, Ericsson, Amazon, Nvidia, Sony, and TCL have confirmed they will not be attending the annual tech show in some form or another. Now, Nokia and HMD Global have seen the way the wind is blowing, and have bowed out of the show as well.

There will be no Nokia presence at MWC

Nokia and HMD Global (the company licensed to make Nokia-branded smartphones) have decided not to attend Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Both HMD Global and Nokia have released separate statements declaring their reasons for pulling out, and they fall into along same lines we’ve seen from most of the companies so far — in short, the risk of employees contracting coronavirus is not worth their continued presence.

Like other companies, Nokia has announced it will be holding a series of “Nokia Live” events to showcase the demos and launches it would otherwise have held at MWC.

Four companies drop out in quick succession

In a massive blow for the GSMA, four big companies announced cancellations of MWC 2020 plans in just one morning. Intel was the first to drop out, clarifying in a statement to VentureBeat that it would not be risking the “safety and well-being of all our employees and partners” by traveling to the Barcelona show. However, it will still be making announcements during the event — there just won’t be any Intel staff members on the ground.

Vivo was the next to go, also mentioning concerns about the health and safety of its staff. As such, it has withdrawn previous plans to reveal the new Apex 2020 concept phone from the event, and revised plans to reveal the phone will be issued soon. Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo was next, making the announcement with a short statement on its website.

Finally, Richard Lai, Engadget China’s editor-in-chief, took to Twitter to reveal an email from hardware company MediaTek that confirms it too will be withdrawing completely from MWC 2020. MediaTek is another major player in the 5G scene, and its withdrawal is another huge loss when this year is likely to see great strides in terms of 5G connectivity.

TCL no longer holding a press conference at MWC, and Sony drops out

We thought it wouldn’t get much worse for MWC 2020, but we spoke too soon. Monday, February 10, saw some high-profile MWC cancellations, with TCL joining Sony in dropping parts of its MWC schedule. But unlike Sony, which is dropping the entirety of its MWC attendance, TCL is only canceling its press conference on February 22, and will be taking part in the rest of its planned MWC activities. So TCL will still be announcing and showcasing its newest mobile devices at its booth in Barcelona.

This news is likely to come as a relief to runners of MWC, the GSMA. While some companies have elected to only cancel parts their press conferences, some very large companies, including LG, Ericsson, and Sony, have decided to pull out completely, leaving large gaps in MWC’s schedule and heavily impacting its prestige. The GSMA has not yet commented on Sony’s or TCL’s announcements, but we’ll update if it does.

Tech giant Sony has also confirmed that it will not be attending MWC in any form, and is pulling out of both exhibiting and participating in the trade show. In a statement posted to Sony’s press news site, it said: “As we place the utmost importance on the safety and well-being 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.”

On the plus side for Xperia fans, the show will be going on — just not in Barcelona. Sony will hold its usual press conference online through the official Xperia YouTube channel. Just tune in on February 24 at 11.30 p.m. PT to get the latest news and launches from Sony.

Ericsson pulls out, prompting concern from the GSMA

Citing “the health and safety of our employees,” mobile giant Ericsson is pulling out of MWC 2020 as well, the company announced on Friday. The GSMA, the group behind the mobile telecom show, said Ericsson’s move “will potentially have further impact.” However, it confirmed the show would still go on. But can it weather further high-profile cancellations?

Thankfully for tech fans, Ericsson’s plans aren’t going to be completely wasted, and everything Ericsson was planning on showing at MWC 2020 will instead be shown at series local events called “Ericsson Unboxed.”

LG and ZTE no longer attending MWC

Just a few hours after Chinese phone manufacturer ZTE canceled its Mobile World Congress press conference due to travel concerns over coronavirus, LG announced that it will also be skipping MWC 2020. While the GSMA remains cautiously optimistic about going ahead with the event, it begs the question, will the show go on?

“With the safety of its employees and general public foremost in mind, LG has decided to withdraw from exhibiting and participating in MWC 2020 later this month in Barcelona, Spain,” LG said in an emailed statement. “This decision will prevent needlessly exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel, which most health experts have advised.”

ZTE clarified in an email to Digital Trends that it will still have a booth at MWC 2020 — but it will not be holding its usual press conference.

Richard Lai, of Engadget China, previously reported that Chinese phone manufacturer Xiaomi will not be bringing Chinese media to the event, though it appears the company still plans to exhibit at the show. However, this tweet has since been deleted, so it seems this information is not fully confirmed.

Will MWC be canceled?

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, travel restrictions have been imposed, in particular to and from China. While both ZTE and Xiaomi are China-based companies, LG is not, and other companies could follow LG’s lead. Chinese brands like Xiaomi, Oppo, and Huawei are top five mobile competitors globally, but if companies as big as LG are bowing out, it stands to reason that others are strongly considering it too.

That said, GSMA, which is the organization behind Mobile World Congress, earlier made a statement saying that it intends to go ahead with the show — but that it would increase the cleaning on-site, and provide better medical support. Today, the GSMA updated its previous statement to clarify that MWC 2020 is still scheduled, currently for February 24 to February 27 in Barcelona. The organization’s website has also posted a detailed list of precautions being taken.

“The GSMA is building on its existing plans to protect the health of our attendees, clients, and staff at MWC Barcelona. GSMA colleagues around the world are taking strong measures to contain and lessen any further spread of the virus,” said the company in a statement.

If MWC does still take place, it could be a significantly smaller show. A number of the larger companies that usually take advantage of the event to announce upcoming devices for the year have pulled out now, placing the status of the trade show under serious strain.

Only time will tell if Mobile World Congress will, or should go on, but as companies continue to pull out, we can bet that the GSMA is considering canceling the event.

Updated on February 12, 2020: Nokia and HMD Global have announced they will not be at MWC.

Christian de Looper
Christian’s interest in technology began as a child in Australia, when he stumbled upon a computer at a garage sale that he…
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