Coronavirus: Big tech exodus from MWC could see 2020 event cancelled

12 Feb 2020

Image: © tanaonte/

With some of the biggest names in tech pulling out of MWC 2020 over coronavirus fears, organisers are set to decide whether the event should go ahead.

The fate of Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2020 is in the balance after a string of high-profile pull-outs in recent days and weeks due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. Reports have emerged that the event’s organiser – GSM Association (GSMA) – is set to meet this Friday (14 February) and decide whether to scrap this year’s event in Barcelona altogether.

However, GSMA has refused to comment on the matter. The organisation made a statement earlier this week in which it said that MWC was still going ahead.

More than a dozen of the biggest names in tech have pulled out so far, one of the latest being Nokia, which said that it would be “prudent” for the company to withdraw from the trade show.

“While the health and safety of our employees is our absolute priority, we also recognise that we have a responsibility to the industry and our customers,” it said.

“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.”

Chinese visitors under quarantine

Some of the other big names to pull out were Amazon, Facebook, LG, Sony and Intel. Along with Nokia, both Vodafone and BT cancelled their participation today (12 February).

It’s estimated that 6,000 people from China would be expected to travel to the event out of a total of more than 100,000. GSMA has said all visitors from China would need to be quarantined at least two weeks prior to the start of MWC. Handshaking is also being discouraged, with body temperature measuring devices dotted around the venues.

Chinese tech giant Huawei told the BBC that it still plans on going to the event, but admitted that it was reviewing this decision on a “daily basis”, with the majority of its presence at the Barcelona event coming from its European offices.

Another Chinese company, Vivo, was expected to launch its latest smartphone at MWC, but revealed it won’t be attending because “the health and safety of our employees and the public are our top priority”.

GSMA recently said that more than 2,800 exhibitors are still expected to turn up, with Google and Microsoft among them.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic