The tech world received an unexpected surprise on Wednesday when the GSMA, the organization responsible for Mobile World Congress (MWC), announced that this year’s event is canceled. That’s right, MWC 2020 won’t be taking place.
The world’s biggest phone show had to be called off after several large companies pulled out amid fears related to the growing coronavirus outbreak. In a statement, GSMA CEO John Hoffman said that the event is simply “impossible” to host this year due to complications from the virus. MWC 2020 was scheduled to take place in Barcelona, Spain between February 24 and 27.
Although the news of MWC’s cancellation is shocking, it didn’t come without warning. Rather, it is the finale to a chaotic week of withdrawals from some of the world’s top tech companies. LG was the first major firm to pull out of the event, announcing its intentions on February 5. In the days that followed, several others did the same.
The likes of AT&T, Facebook, Amazon, Intel, Nokia, Nvidia, and Sony highlight a list of nearly 50 companies that withdrew from the event. Each of them made their decision due to fears surrounding the coronavirus outbreak and a desire to keep employees and visitors safe.
GSMA planned safety measures and precautions to try and quell fears with the hope of keeping MWC 2020 alive. However, due to the fact that most of the major exhibitors pulled out, there wasn’t much of a choice.
The organization announced the official cancellation of the conference on Wednesday following a meeting of the GSMA council.
It released a statement saying, “With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has canceled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global health concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concerns, and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event.”
Feeling the Impact
For the companies still planning to attend MWC, the cancellation comes as a blow. Many of these are small firms that spent large amounts of time and money preparing for the event.
However, the GSMA and MWC will also have some fallout to deal with. Analyst Ben Wood says, “The GSMA now needs to be careful that there is not a knock of effect from this year’s cancellation. Major companies and many attendees will be reviewing the importance of MWC to their business and the GSMA must work hard to have a clear path forward.”
Of course, the MWC will continue to be a staple of the technology world moving forward. The GSMA has already said that it is working with Barcelona to ensure that MWC 2021 occurs as planned.
In the meantime, coronavirus fears continue to grow. The disease, which has now killed 1,100 people, continues to infect patients around the globe. Electronica China 2020, another tech showcase event, has also been postponed in response to guidelines from the Shanghai city government.
The virus has had a huge impact on the tech industry as a whole. Many companies have opted to limit travel for their employees until the outbreak subsides. Though it’s unlikely, if you find yourself traveling in an area where coronavirus cases are more common, check out The Burn-In’s guide to doing so safely. In addition, stay up to date on the latest news from official sources like the CDC and the World Health Organization.