According to common definitions, a congress is a formal meeting of the representatives of different countries, constituent states, organizations, trade unions, political parties or other groups. Thus, by that definition, if there’s no representatives attending, there can be no congress.

MWC 2020 is fast approaching this definitional problem, with another company pulling out this evening. Both Nokia Networks and HMD Global (maker of Nokia Smartphones) have put out press releases this evening announcing that both companies will no longer be attending Mobile World Congress.

Nokia’s press release states:

While the health and safety of our employees is our absolute priority, we also recognize that we have a responsibility to the industry and our customers. In view of this, we have taken the necessary time to evaluate a fast-moving situation, engage with the GSMA and other stakeholders, regularly consult external experts and authorities, and plan to manage risks based on a wide range of scenarios.

The conclusion of that process is that we believe the prudent decision is to cancel our participation at Mobile World Congress. We want to express our thanks to the GSMA, the governments of China and Spain as well as Catalonia’s Generalitat, and many others who have worked tirelessly to address the challenges resulting from the novel coronavirus, and they have our full support as they move forward.

Rather than meeting customers and stakeholders in Barcelona, Nokia plans to go directly to customers with a series of “Nokia Live” events aimed at showcasing the industry-leading demos and launches scheduled for MWC.

As with other companies, the motivation given by Nokia is the wellbeing of its staff, stakeholders and its customers which it would ordinarily be taking to and meeting with at MWC.

HMD Global’s press release is virtually identical, and is not repeated here for the sake of avoiding repetition.

HMD Global and Nokia join a growing list of well over a dozen companies of various sizes that have pulled out of – or reduced their attendance at – the international trade show. With the board of GSMA meeting this Friday (US time, so Saturday for us) to decide whether MWC will ultimately go ahead, the decision will be anyone’s guess.

On one hand, GSMA has said previously that it won’t be cancelling the show because of Coronavirus concerns, but that was a week or so ago.

With so many names big and small pulling out since, it’s growing harder and harder to see how the GSMA can really justify pushing ahead with the show. However, with public health authorities in Spain (and Catalonia in particular) declaring that there’s no public health reason to cancel, the GSMA has a very difficult decision to make indeed.