After a week of major mobile industry players pulling out or reducing presence at Mobile World Congress, the trade show has been cancelled. GSMA, the industry body that puts on the show, said that health and travel concerns over the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak have made it “impossible” to hold the show, previously scheduled for next weekend in Barcelona.
The GMSA released a statement on its own site, explaining the rationale:
Since the first edition of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2006, the GSMA has convened the industry, governments, ministers, policymakers, operators and industry leaders across the broader ecosystem.
With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event.
The Host City Parties respect and understand this decision.
The GSMA and the Host City Parties will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions.
Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world.
Mobile World Congress (MWC for short) is a major industry event, a highlight in the yearly calendar of consumer technology conferences. It’s where a lot of the phones coming in the middle of the year get announced, to say nothing of the business-to-business deals made in meetings between carriers and equipment partners. It’s a huge part of the industry, for European countries especially, but attracts vendors and press from all over the world.
As the ongoing humanitarian crisis of the coronavirus outbreak developed, more and more companies pulled out of the show or diminished planned events like press conferences. By mid-week, almost every major phone maker and carrier had announced that they had cancelled plans to attend. Technology press outlets—a huge element of the show’s appeal from a marketing standpoint—did the same. (Review Geek made the call to cancel our plans on Monday.)
Though the GSMA had announced mitigation efforts like refusing attendance from residents of hard-hit areas in China or those who’d recently traveled there, the danger from international travel and a conference of close quarters with thousands of attendees has apparently proven too much. The show is cancelled, and those still planning to attend are left scrambling to adjust their plans and try to recover their investments.
As the coronavirus spreads and efforts to contain or counteract it are still struggling, expect this sort of thing to continue happening, both in the technology industry and beyond. Chinese manufacturing, a huge and vital part of worldwide economies of scale, is already showing signs of major disruption.