Saturday, 29 February 2020

Coronavirus fears slay MWC 2020

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Thursday 13 February 20

The GSMA have taken the difficult decision to pull the plug on the industry’s biggest event

At around 7pm last night, the GSMA released a statement confirming what had been feared all week: the cancellation of MWC 2020 due to fears of coronavirus.   “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…

At around 7pm last night, the GSMA released a statement confirming what had been feared all week: the cancellation of MWC 2020 due to fears of coronavirus.
 
“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,” read the statement.
 
LG was the first company to drop out of the event last Thursday, citing the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. With 100,000 people set to attend the event from all over the world, the risk of infection was deemed too great.
 
However, besides travel restrictions in China, at this point the event still looked unshakable and had been largely unaffected.
 
Sadly, this was not to last. On Friday, key exhibitor Ericsson, who had purchased a stand of over 6,000 square metres, announced their withdrawal under similar circumstances. The event was shaken, and all attendees began seriously discussing the possibility of withdrawal. 
 
The GSMA tried to mitigate concerns over the weekend by undertaking stricter hygiene controls and banning certain higher risk attendees, such as those from Hubei province in China, from participating, but this was not enough. 
 
At the start of the week, major companies such as Amazon, Intel, NTT DoComo, Sony, Sprint, AT&T, and Facebook all withdrew, alongside a host of smaller exhibitors. The GSMA announced that they would make a formal decision about cancelling the event on Friday.
 
Yesterday, however, more big cancellations forced the hand of the GSMA. Nokia, surprisingly silent after the initial loss of Ericsson, finally pulled out, and was soon followed by the major operators Orange, Vodafone, BT, Deutsche Telecom, and Telefonica. Emergency talks were brought forward to yesterday afternoon, and the decision to cancel the event was made in the early evening.
 
So, what now? 
 
For the Ericssons and Vodafones of the world, the effect will probably be comparatively small – they will arrange their own local events to announce their biggest news.
 
It is the smaller companies that rarely have an opportunity to share the international spotlight that will suffer most, both financially and in loss of networking opportunities. 
 
And what about the GSMA? Rumours suggested that their voluntary cancellation of the event would not be covered by their insurance, potentially costing them millions in deposit repayments. This theory has not been verified, but if true could have a huge impact on future GSMA events. 
 
It is still early days, but we cannot help but wonder what this cancellation will mean for MWC 2021.
 
 
Missing your telecoms networking fix? For the chance to speak with global industry leaders from all over the world, head to the Total Telecom Congress 2020 
 
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