MWC 2020: More coronavirus withdrawals ahead of GSMA meeting

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Speculation as to whether Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona will go ahead as planned due to the coronavirus crisis is intensifying following more withdrawals and reports in local media.

MWC is the mobile industry’s annual showpiece event. In 2019, it attracted a record 110,000 attendees and contributed €470 million to the local economy.

However the outbreak of Coronavirus is casting a shadow over this years show, due to start on February 24. There are concerns that the huge amount of international travel and the huge numbers of people in confined spaces could accelerate the spread of the virus.

MWC 2020

Amazon, Ericsson, Intel, LG, Nvidia, Sony and Vivo are among those who have said they will not be attending, with some electing to delay handset launches or hold them elsewhere. Travel restrictions to and from China are also having an impact, with Huawei and ZTE expected to increase representation from their European offices.

Of the 240,000 square metre venue, it is thought than 10 per cent of space will be vacated and attendances are expected to be lower than in previous years if the show goes ahead. Reports in Spain have suggested some hotels are already seeing cancellations.

So far, organisers the GSMA have said it will follow the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Chinese government, and Spanish authorities, while it will provide additional medical support and sanitising products throughout the venue. Exhibitors who may not be able to travel to Barcelona as a result of the outbreak will also be provided with support.

However, this could change before the end of the week. The GSMA will reportedly meet this Friday to decide whether to stage the event.

The GSMA declined to comment.

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.