By Brian Santo, editor-in-chief, EE Times
The GSMA today released the following statement:
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 GSMA had plans to meet on Friday — two days hence — to make a decision on whether or not to hold the show, but the rush of exhibitors pulling out of the event made the cancellation all but inevitable. Companies such as Amazon, LG, Nvidia, Ericsson, and Viavi had decided not to go. In quick succession, they were joined by Facebook, Nokia, Cisco, Intel, Sony, MediaTek, BT, Accedian, Spirent, and many others.
Mobile World Congress, scheduled to be held in two weeks in Barcelona, is nearly the span of two continents away from the epicenter of the viral outbreak in Wuhan. Furthermore, there has been only a single confirmed case of the new virus in all of Spain as of Saturday (Feb. 9).
But the fear was too great. Exhibitors, journalists, and other attendees have been on social media for days, polling business colleagues and friends to see who might skip MWC this year.
It all proved too much.
GSMA is not even going to try to postpone, as several smaller conferences have done. In its statement, the organization said it is looking ahead to Mobile World Congress 2021.
There are no estimates of the economic costs, but they have to be significant. Of course, the damage will include all of the business associated with the event itself: facility rentals, staffing, travel, shipping, and hits to the local economy of Barcelona. It is also certain to put a crimp in global industry business as well; MWC is a forum for a significant amount of deal-making.