At least four more major participants pulled out of MWC 2020 over the weekend, while restrictions on visitors from China have been tightened.
Amazon, Nvidia, Sony and Viavi have now all confirmed they’ve decided the risk of coronavirus infection is too great for them to allow their formal presence to go ahead. Here are their statements.
Amazon: “Due to the outbreak and continued concerns about novel coronavirus, Amazon will withdraw from exhibiting and participating in Mobile World Congress 2020, scheduled for Feb. 24-27 in Barcelona, Spain.”
Nvidia: “We’ve informed GSMA, the organizers of MWC Barcelona, that we won’t be sending our employees to this year’s event. Given public health risks around the coronavirus, ensuring the safety of our colleagues, partners and customers is our highest concern.
“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. We’re grateful for GSMA’s leadership and continued efforts to ensure the safety of all attendees.”
Sony: “Sony has been closely monitoring the evolving situation following the novel coronavirus outbreak, which was declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization on January 30th, 2020. 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 Sony press conference will now instead take place at the scheduled time of 8:30am (CET) on February 24, 2020 as a video via our official Xperia YouTube channel to share our exciting product news. https://www.youtube.com/user/sonyxperia. Sony would like to thank everyone for their understanding and ongoing support during these challenging times.”
Viavi: “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.”
There are, of course, rumours of other cancellations, but none confirmed at time of writing. Cnet reports that Samsung is still exhibiting, but is acting to protect just its senior execs, which isn’t a great look if it’s true. We asked Samsung for comment and were told that, while there is no official statement, the company is still attending.
Meanwhile the organisers of MWC 2020, the GSMA, issued another update over the weekend, affirming once more that the event is still going ahead, but announcing a raft of new precautions and restrictions designed to mitigate the risk of coronavirus infection to exhibitors and attendees.
- All travellers from the Hubei province will not be permitted access to the event (MWC Barcelona, Four Years From Now (4YFN), xside and YoMo)
- All travellers who have been in China will need to demonstrate proof they have been outside of China 14 days prior to the event (passport stamp, health certificate)
- Temperature screening will be implemented
- Attendees will need to self-certify they have not been in contact with anyone infected.
While it’s totally understandable that the GSMA will do everything in its power to make the show as safe as possible, it’s hard to se how some of those measures will be enforceable. What does ‘self-certify’ even mean? Also this advice was issued yesterday, 15 days before the official start of the event. So, essentially, if you haven’t left China for the event already, don’t bother.
The whole event feels like it’s balancing on a knife-edge, with just one more negative development potentially enough to tip the balance towards outright cancellation. We understand many companies are following Ericsson’s lead and conducting formal risk assessments, the results of which are probably already being analysed. The smart money was on Nokia pulling out after the Ericsson decision, but we’ve heard nothing from them yet. The biggest exhibitor, however, is Chinese firm Huawei, and the fate of MWC could lie in their hands.