Over a dozen of major tech companies including but not limited to Amazon , Facebook , Sony and Ericsson have temporarily left the Mobile World Congress over coronavirus fears, many are raising concerns about the viability of this year’s conference. The latest company to withdraw from the world’s biggest mobile event is Nokia, which said it had made the “prudent decision” to cancel its participation rather than potentially expose its users to the coronavirus that continues to spread in China. Mobile World Congress, scheduled to take place in Barcelona from February 24-27, is one of the tech industry’s most important annual gatherings. It typically draws more than 100,000 attendees and thousands of companies, including the sector’s biggest players who use it to launch new products and showcase innovations. But this year’s summit will be missing some of its headline participants. The loss of Nokia and Ericsson, the two European suppliers of 5G equipment, is particularly damaging for a conference focused on the development and use of the next generation in mobile data networks.
The industrial group stated that it would carry out temperature screening and increased cleaning of “high-volume touchpoints,” such as catering areas, bathrooms, speaker microphones, handrails and public touch screens. It will double medical support at the venue and won’t admit anyone who has been in China during the two weeks prior to the event. About 5,000 to 6,000 people typically attend from China, according to GSMA. On Wednesday, GSMA said in a statement that it was monitoring the situation closely and meeting regularly with health experts.The coronavirus outbreak has already led to a number of events in Asia being canceled, relocated or postponed. The much heralded Formula 1 race that had been scheduled to take place April 19 in Shanghai has now been postponed and Art Basel Hong Kong, scheduled for mid March, have thus been canceled.
The US has been pushing for it’s allies to drop Huawei as a supplier over national security concerns; Huawei however denies that its products pose a risk. A spokesperson for Huawei confirmed earlier this week that the company plans to attend the conference.Ericsson and Nokia are Huawei’s big global competitors in 5G, thus the conference in the city of Barcelona would have been an important opportunity to promote their products.Earlier this week, Ericsson stated it appreciated that GSMA had done everything it could to control the risk of infection. “However, as one of the largest exhibitors, Ericsson has 1000s of visitors in its hall each day and even if the risk is low, the company cannot guarantee the health and safety of visitors or it’s employees,” the company stated.