GSMA ‘to decide by Friday if MWC is to be cancelled’

GSMA ‘to decide by Friday if MWC is to be cancelled’

11 February 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Leading members of the industry will decide by Friday whether or not to cancel this year’s Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, according to reports from the city.

In addition, five leading European operators – BT, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone – have already formed a committee to determine whether they will take part in the event, which last year attracted more than 100,000 people from 200 countries across the world.

But, faced with the threat of coronavirus, a number of big exhibitors have already pulled out, led by Ericsson and LG last week, and followed by Amazon Web Services, NTT DoCoMo, Nvidia, Sony and others this week.

The GSMA has not confirmed the report from Barcelona of a Friday decision deadline. The event is due to start on Monday 24 February, but companies will be building starts through next week and many pre-MWC events are scheduled for the weekend of 22-23 February.

Cancellation will be a severe blow not just for the industry’s trade association, the GSMA, which funds many of its activities from MWC’s profits, but for the city of Barcelona. Last year’s MWC brought revenue of €470 million into the city’s businesses.

This morning InterDigital became one of the latest to withdraw from MWC. “Over the years we’ve taken advantage of the event to unveil numerous world’s firsts in communications technology,” said president and CEO William Merritt. “This year we were excited to show some ground-breaking demos including a working 6G platform. However, nothing is more important to us than the health and welfare of our employees. We’ll be reaching out to our various stakeholders to discuss better means of bringing our new technologies to them and engaging in the important discussions that always take place in Barcelona.”

Yesterday software and billing company Amdocs said it will not attend. Shuky Sheffer, president and CEO, said: “In the face of the public health concern from the novel coronavirus, we are placing the highest priority on protecting the health of our employees, customers and partners. While we appreciate the precautionary measures put into place by the GSMA, we believe the safest option is not to attend MWC 2020 in Barcelona.”