Ericsson has pulled out of this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC 2021) in Barcelona due to ongoing safety concerns surrounding Covid-19.
Organisers the GSMA had moved the event from its traditional Spring slot to June in the hope that this would allow up to 50,000 people (around half the usual number of visitors) to attend following the cancellation last year.
In order to minimise the risk of transmission, there will be more open-air events, contactless interactions, and temperature checks located around the venue.
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Attendees will also be required to produce a negative Covid-19 test every 72 hours, while certain elements will be staged online to encourage virtual participants.
However, Ericsson has decided the risks are too great. In a statement to Light Reading, the company said: “In view of the continuing impacts from Covid-19 and our primary consideration towards our people, their health and well-being, we have decided not to participate in MWC 2021.
“The decision, whilst regrettable, reflects our precautionary approach to managing the pandemic from a people and travel perspective whilst vaccination programs are rolled out globally. We look forward to the opportunity to rejoin future events and continue to work closely with the GSMA and industry partners.”
The news is a particular headache for GSMA given the Swedish telecoms equipment was the first major exhibitor to withdraw last year, sparking several others to follow. There will be inevitable concerns that history could be about to repeat itself.
MWC is a major source of revenue for the GSMA, which was keen to stage the 2020 event until its cancellation just a fortnight before it was due to be held.
"We are planning boldly but cautiously for an in-person event in Barcelona, recognising that planning in a pandemic is complicated," it told TechRadar Pro. "Global circumstances remain dynamic, and so we must behave accordingly, which means constant evaluation and fine-tuning. We are adapting as necessary whilst leading consistently with our role as convenors of a critical ecosystem.
"We respect Ericsson’s decision and look forward to welcoming the company back to Barcelona for future editions of MWC. We appreciate that it will not be possible for everyone to attend MWC Barcelona 2021. This is why we have developed an industry-leading virtual event platform that will ensure everyone can enjoy the unique MWC experience. The in-person and virtual options are provided so that all friends of MWC Barcelona can attend and participate in a way that works for them."
The GSMA and the city of Barcelona have agreed a deal to stage the event in the Catalan Capital until 2024 and earlier this week, Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, confirmed to TechRadar that the event will be moved back to February for the 2022 edition.
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.