The GSMA, the global association of telecommunications operators and organiser of the Mobile World Congress (MWC), decided yesterday to cancel the fair for the sake of “the safety and health of Barcelona and the host country”.
In a statement, the CEO of GSMA, John Hoffman, announced that, “with due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, 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” and “GSMA and the host city parties will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions”, added the association, who expressed its “sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world”.
The decision comes after the withdrawal of more than twenty companies, including some as important as LG, Nvidia, Intel, Mediatek, Amazon, Facebook, Nokia, British Telecom, Deutsche, Orange, Vodafone or NTT. Given this bleeding caused by the fear of a virus (now officially known as Covid-19) that has already caused more than 1,100 deaths and more than 42,000 infected in China, GSMA yesterday called an emergency meeting of its board of directors to make a decision on the largest mobile phone fair in the world, announced for 24 to 27 February in Barcelona and whose cancellation cost could exceed 500 million euros.
At the end of the meeting, the mobile operators’ board issued a brief statement in which it announced that it had decided in principle to go ahead with the event, although it warned that it would continue to monitor developments closely through “regular meetings with health experts, both Spanish and from other countries, as well as with our partners, to ensure the health of visitors”. Finally, and after a long meeting, the GSMA made the final decision to cancel the event, which has been held in Barcelona since 2006.
However, the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, said yesterday in Barcelona after meeting with the Minister of Health of Catalonia, Alba Vergés, that all necessary measures were being taken to address the coronavirus in Spain and that there were “no public health reasons to cancel any of the major public events that are held or planned to be held in the coming days in our country”.
Interestingly, the discussions about the continuity of the MWC coincided with the celebration, since last Tuesday, of another international fair of the audiovisual sector, the ISE 2020, which brings together in Amsterdam more than 1,300 exhibitors, 230 of them from China, and around 60,000 people. Some of the companies that cancelled their presence in Barcelona, such as Sony or Intel, are participating in the ISE. LG is one of the few major companies that have dropped out of both fairs. According to reliable sources, security measures are not particularly different at the two fairs, and were even stricter at the Barcelona fair.