More big names are stepping away from the world’s biggest phone and telecom trade fair, they announced today, prompting the organizers to urgently decide what they wish to do going forward.
Nokia, one of the omnipresent firms at major tech trade conferences, won’t be attending this year’s Mobile World Congress, it said Wednesday citing health and safety concerns over coronavirus outbreak. Electronics giant HMD, which sells smartphones under Nokia brand, cited similar reasoning for its withdrawal, too.
The iconic Finnish firm, one of the cornerstone companies at MWC, and HMD have become the latest to back out of the trade fair. In recent days, scores of firms including Ericsson, Amazon, Vivo, LG, Facebook, and Sony have withdrawn their participation from the world’s biggest smartphones-focused trade show.
German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom, and BT, Britain’s biggest telecommunications group, have also backed out citing coronavirus outbreak, they announced on Wednesday.
MWC attracts over 100,000 attendees, thousands of companies and high-profile executives who use this global platform to broker deals and unveil their upcoming gadgets and innovations to the world.
The trade fair also contributes to the bottom line of Barcelona city. This year, the four-day trade show was scheduled to take place from February 27.
Like Samsung, Huawei and Ericsson, Nokia occupies swathes of exhibition space which will now be empty. But also, it’s arguably one of the whole reasons for MWC existing in the first place.
— Ingrid (@ingridlunden) February 12, 2020
“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 conclusion of that process is that we believe the prudent decision is to cancel our participation at Mobile World Congress,” Nokia said in a statement.
The high-profile no-shows should put more pressure on GSMA, the body that organizes the event, to cancel this year’s edition of the trade show. GSMA acknowledged the safety risks to attendees in an email on Sunday, but ducked from assuming any liabilities at the trade show. As my colleague Romain Dillet pointed out, the email appeared to have triggered companies to withdraw their participation.
On Tuesday, Spanish publication El Pais reported that the GSMA executives would meet on Friday and consider their next steps, which could include suspending this year’s event. A spokesperson declined comment to TechCrunch.
The GSMA executives have moved to have that talk later today, according to a report.
You can check out the full list of companies that have withdrawn from MWC this year below.