Mobile World Congress, the mecca of mobile innovation, has come under the cloud of the Coronavirus outbreak. MWC 2020 is scheduled to be held from February 24 to February 27, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. However, ahead of the event, a number of tech companies have decided to pull out. While MWC generally sets the tone for new smartphone innovation and development of new mobile standards, this year could see a different approach all together. From big exhibitors deciding to sit out to restrictive policies, here is what is happening at MWC 2020.
What is the Mobile World Congress?
Before we get into MWC 2020 and the situation around it, we might as well try and understand why Mobile World Congress is important. The GSMA MWC series (formerly known as Mobile World Congress) is the largest exhibition for the mobile industry. It represents global mobile operators, device manufacturers, technology providers, vendors and content owners. Inaugurated in 1987, the event takes place at Fira de Barcelona and was attended by 1,09,500 people last year.
MWC 2020: A look at who is not attending?
Update: Chinese smartphone maker Vivo has also announced that it will not attend MWC 2020. The company said it will showcase APEX 2020 Concept phone, initially planned for MWC, at a later stage. “The health and safety of our employees and the public are our top priority,” the company said in a statement. LG and ZTE were the first to announce plans to not exhibit at Mobile World Congress 2020. However, the big exhibitor dropping out is Ericsson. The Swedish networking and telecommunications company announced that it is withdrawing from MWC Barcelona 2020. The company also confirmed that its employees and customers won’t be attending the event. It further added that health and safety is the company’s top priority. Ericsson plans to show demos and content created for MWC at local events called “Ericsson Unboxed” instead.
Ericsson is among the key players in the network infrastructure and is considered major player in the 5G infrastructure. It’s base stations powered most 5G demos at MWC last year. With Ericsson dropping out, MWC 2020 will miss out a major exhibitor. It is also important to note that Ericsson builds demo zones that are expansive and are on the scale of a tiny city. This year, MWC attendees will miss out on such a level of technical innovation available on the show floor.
Chinese networking giant ZTE is expected to showcase its products at the event but might not have a big splash launch event. Among smartphone makers, both LG and Sony have decided to skip MWC 2020. While they are not big players in the market any longer they tend to have big exhibits. Samsung, another big player globally, has announced plans to scale down its presence at MWC this year. With Sony and LG dropping out, the onus will be on players like Nokia (HMD Global), Realme and others to step up.
According to TechCrunch, MWC has banned visitors from China’s Hubei province. It will also require those who have been to China to prove they were outside the country for at least 14 days before the event. It has also instructed attending from shaking hands. These restrictions imposed by GSMA, the industry association that makes MWC possible, do not seem to have gone down well with everyone. There are even calls for MWC 2020 to be delayed by a few weeks but so far the event seems to be on track.
GSMA is bracing for Coronavirus impact but it has not revealed any contract plans. Amazon is another big player not planning to attend this year. The Seattle-based e-commerce giant has used MWC to show off its Echo-branded Alexa smart speakers. However, this year, MWC will go without any Echo from Alexa. NVIDIA is another big tech company not attending MWC. The company said it “won’t be sending our employees to this year’s event.” The company cited public health risks around the coronavirus as the reason behind it’s decision to pull out.
At this moment, MWC 2020 is seriously under the threat of collapsing due to the novel Coronavirus outbreak. In fact, it would probably make sense for the event to get delayed to a later stage or cancelled altogether for the safety of hundreds and thousands of people. But it does seem to be going ahead as planned. If you are attending MWC 2020, let us know whether you are rethinking your decision.