The world’s biggest mobile show has been cancelled, with the GSM Association moving overnight declaring that it was impossible for the show to continue in the shadow of growing Coronavirus concerns.
The move comes after more than two dozen companies – including big names like HMD, Ericsson, Intel, Amazon and LG – pulled out of the show citing the same concerns.
Bloomberg reports that GSMA CEO John Hoffman said the coronavirus outbreak has made it “impossible” to hold the event. MWC was scheduled to take place in Barcelona on February 24th.
“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.”
Prior to today, the GSMA had assured exhibitors, visitors and the public that the event could go ahead safely, with a swathe of infection control measures put in place for the show, going so far as to recommend that attendees not shake hands, and banning visitors from China’s Hubei province entirely.
The trade body, which represents some 1,200 companies across mobile from around the world, runs MWC as an opportunity for those businesses – and thousands more – to meet, show their wares and make deals to sell their product. More than that, Mobile World Congress is also a huge focus of consumer attention, as many smartphones are launched at the event.
In recent years, MWC has featured an increasing presence from rising Chinese smartphone makers, and this year was set to be a massive showing for Oppo, Xiaomi, and RealMe to name but three. With the show now cancelled, it’s unclear how those brands – and countless others – will carry out their Q1 (and indeed H1) announcement plans.
While disappointing for smartphone makers around the world – and, indeed, the journalists who write about them – the move will have a huge impact on the people of Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain generally. MWC typically brings in around half a billion euros into the local economy (or around $800 million AUD), and generates as may as 14,000 employment opportunities at and around the show.
We’ve reached out to some of the companies which had publicised big plans for MWC 2020 to understand what will now change.