Mobile World Congress canceled after coronavirus fears make it ‘impossible’ to stage giant event

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Mobile World Congress, the giant mobile phone event slated to kick off in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 24, has been canceled due to fears around coronavirus after numerous companies pulled out of the event.

Organizer GSMA, which represents operators and companies across the mobile ecosystem, canceled the conference on Wednesday. GSMA CEO John Hoffman said in a statement, below, that the deadly coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 1,100 people and sickened 45,000, made it “impossible” to stage the event.

Since the first edition of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2006, the GSMA has convened the industry, governments, ministers, policymakers, operators and industry leaders across the broader ecosystem.

With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event.

The Host City Parties respect and understand this decision. The GSMA and the Host City Parties will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions. Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world.

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The list of companies that decided to exercise caution and skip the trade show included Facebook, Amazon, LG, Intel, Ericsson, Vivo, ZTE, Nvidia, Cisco, Sony, HMD, Volvo, Orange, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, McAfee, BT and HMD Global, according to Wired.

Microsoft said in a statement that it fully supports “the GSMA’s decision to prioritize the health and welfare of all participants” and the tech giant was looking forward “to sharing Microsoft’s latest innovations at a future date.”

Wired reported that GSMA had been lobbying the Spanish government to declare a health emergency that would allow it to cancel the event. The organization had said previously that it was banning visitors from China’s Hubei province, where the epidemic is thought to have begun, as part of the safety precautions it was taking around the event.

Bloomberg reported that it’s the first time in MWC’s 33-year history that organizers have called off the event. More than 100,000 participants attend to check out the latest innovations, pitch to investors and do deals.

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The conference was scheduled to run through Feb. 27. New smartphones and mobile devices and the continued hype around 5G were all expected to be the big attractions this year.

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