Mobile World Congress organisers set to meet over potential delay or cancellation
Mobile World Congress organisers set to meet on Wednesday to discuss the event and a potential delay or cancellation due to concerns regarding the coronavirus.
The Mobile World Congress (MWC) of Barcelona hangs by a very thin thread. No one in the sector dares to make any plans and the withdrawal of around twenty companies due to the international crisis of the coronavirus has caused tension among the rest of the firms that is unstoppable now, with new names adding to the list of absences with almost every hour that passes. The health alarm has put the organisers in the difficult position to move forward with the technological event planned in the Catalan capital from February 24 to 27, cancel or postpone it to the summer, with the date of June 30 as the most likely , according to some media.
The GSMA, the entity responsible for the congress, has not made any comment on this meeting and still confirms that the decision will be taken at the board meeting of the entity - the sector's employer - to be held on Friday in Barcelona. However, sources close to the organization have confirmed to Spanish media outlet 'Bolsamanía' that the organization considers this delay as one of the viable alternatives. Its 26 members are part of the world's leading telephone operators, among which Vodafone, Telefónica or Telecom stand out.
It is chaired by Stéphane Richard, president and CEO of Orange. On his shoulders lies the task of moving forward with a MWC in tatters and without the presence of giants such as LG, Ericsson, Sony or Facebook. Or choose not to celebrate it and make way for the 2021 edition.
Most of these 'telecos', have not yet ruled on their attendance at the technology fair, except for the Japanese NTT Docomo, and according to some sources are in constant contact to make a joint decision. However, in statements to Bolsamanía, Vodafone and Orange explain that the final position will be taken from their headquarters in the United Kingdom and France, respectively, while Telefónica acknowledges "being on the lookout".
The organization is at the crossroads and has to choose between dropping the MWC, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors and has a positive economic impact in Barcelona of almost 500m euros, or looking for an alternative throughout this year, to limit monetary damages and to save the millionaire indemnities that GSMA and the insurers will have to face and that for now are difficult to quantify.
In addition, the entity is unceirtain about what will happen with the second of the three annual events that it organises, which is held in Shanghai, from June 30 to July 2, right at the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak (Covid-19), which has already claimed more than 1,000 deaths in China and about 44,000 affected. The third of its congresses is in Los Angeles, at the end of October.
For all these reasons, an alternative under study, according to a Spanish media outlet, is to reprogram the MWC of Barcelona to the dates of Shanghai, tackling two problems at once. GSMA has not responded to the request of Bolsamanía about the strength of these speculations and Fira de Barcelona argues that its calendar for the rest of 2020 is full at this point, which adds great difficulty to finding a solution.
Rakuten, Facebook, Cisco, AT&T , Intel and the Chinese Vivo have confirmed between Tuesday and Wednesday that they will not participate in the world mobile congress, joining other companies such as Ericsson, Amazon, Sony, LG, Umidigi, Nvidia, NTT Docomo and Gigaset. Among those who will attend, Samsung announced last week that it reduced its presence, as did the Chinese ZTE. Brands such as Huawei and Xiaomi have confirmed their participation.
As for the organizer, GSMA continues to weigh what to do and won't give clues until Friday, when it will issue an official statement. So far, from the GSMA, preventive measures have been increased after the coronavirus alert, so that MWC participants from Hubai (China) will not be able to access the event, and the temperature will be measured for all attendees.
In addition, all people who have been in China will need a test that shows that they have been out of the country 14 days before the event. These measures are added to other preventive measures such as the increase in disinfectant soap dispensers, the change of speakers' microphones and the recommendation to the attendees to refrain from greeting each other by shaking hands.