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BREAKING NEWS: Mobile World Congress Cancelled

Mobile World Congress in Barcelona has been called off with the organisers GSMA believed to now be in discussions with the Spanish Government who they want to declare a health emergency y so that they can claim on insurance following the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

It’s the first time in MWC Barcelona’s 33-year history that organizers have called off the event, which draws more than 100,000 participants from across the world to check out the latest innovations, pitch to investors and do deals.

Major carriers in Australia including Vodafone, Optus and Telstra who traditionally send senior management to the event are had already moved to cancel their show visit, after more Companies including Nokia, a major MWC show supporter, Facebook and Intel announced they were pulling out.

UK carrier BT had already made the decision to pull out.

(AAP Image/NOKIA)

 

BT said withdrawing from the event was the ‘most responsible decision’ it could make.

‘After careful discussions and planning, BT has decided that we will not attend GSMA Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2020,’ the company said in a statement.

‘We value our participation in important industry groups like GSMA and deeply respect the steps they have already taken to protect attendees.

‘Unfortunately, the most responsible decision is to withdraw our participation from the event to safeguard our employees and customers.’

In a statement, the GSM Association (GSMA) said it had become “impossible” for the event to go ahead.

BT, Facebook, LG, Nokia, Sony and Vodafone were among the high-profile exhibitors to have pulled out of the annual event, citing coronavirus fears.

But Spain’s health minister, Salvador Illa, urged people to remain calm.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Illa said people should “trust in the Spanish health system” and “take decisions based on scientific evidence”.

The decision to scrap it entirely was a difficult one according to show management , and it’s not clear who will shoulder the costs — the participants or GSMA.

The industry’s biggest players often spend tens of millions of dollars to exhibit at the show. Ericsson’s absence alone left a gap bigger than a standard American football field in the conference halls.

GSMA funds much of its budget from the event, charging A$1,095  for a basic admissions pass.

This year was supposed to see the big hurrah for 5G which carriers such as Telstra are trying to fire up stalled growth with the promise of higher data speeds and faster responsiveness. Smartphone shipments have been declining since 2016 with consumers struggling to understand why they have to pay a premium for a service that is only available in limed spots.

MWC is also important to the city of Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest city, as well as to many of the smaller companies that wouldn’t otherwise have access to such a large audience of mobile carriers and consumers. Large national contingents from Turkey to South Korea take to the show to encourage deal-making and inward investment.

The event scheduled for February 24-27 is traditionally attended by thousands of Chinese nationals many from provinces in China where more than 1000 people have died from the virus.

Chinese Companies Oppo, Realme, and Huawei all confirmed as late as yesterday that they will still be attending the event if it goes ahead, what they did not explain is how they would prevent their China based staff from attending the show with many of their factories and offices closed down in China following a decision by the Chinese Communist Government to close offices and factories while also restricting transport in and out of affected areas.

Both Oppo and Huawei had planned to fly several journalist to Barcelona for the event with all expenses paid by the Chinese Companies who are desperately trying to hang on to market share following serious questions about security issues surrounding their smartphones and technology systems.

The GSM Association (GSMA)

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