Nokia pulls out of MWC 2020 due to coronavirus

(Image credit: Nokia)

Nokia has withdrawn from Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2020 in Barcelona after making a “fact-based decision” about the health risks posed by the coronavirus outbreak.

The crisis is casting a dark shadow over this year’s event, which is due to begin on February 24. Several major technology firms have cancelled their attendance, accounting for more than ten per cent of the 240,000 square metre exhibition space sold.

The telecoms equipment giant had been expected to use the event to push its 5G and networking portfolio, but will instead now hold a series of “Nokia Live” events to showcase the announcements it had planned for MWC.

Nokia MWC 2020

“While the health and safety of our employees is our absolute priority, we also recognise that we have a responsibility to the industry and our customers,” said the company in a statement. 

“In view of this, we have taken the necessary time to evaluate a fast-moving situation, engage with the GSMA and other stakeholders, regularly consult external experts and authorities, and plan to manage risks based on a wide range of scenarios."

“The conclusion of that process is that we believe the prudent decision is to cancel our participation at Mobile World Congress. We want to express our thanks to the GSMA, the governments of China and Spain as well as Catalonia’s Generalitat, and many others who have worked tirelessly to address the challenges resulting from the novel coronavirus, and they have our full support as they move forward.”

Amazon, Ericsson, Facebook, 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. HMD Global, a separate entity that manufactures Nokia-branded smartphones, has also pulled out.

Travel restrictions to and from China are also having an impact, with Huawei and ZTE expected to increase representation from their European offices.

The GSMA, the event organiser, has so far said it will follow the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Chinese government, and Spanish authorities. It has also said it will provide additional medical support and sanitising products throughout the venue.

However, it's possible MWC won't take place at all. The GSMA will reportedly meet this Friday to decide whether to stage or cancel the event.

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.