Mobile World Congress (MWC), the world’s biggest mobile technology showcase and launch pad for a renewed 5G-devices push this year, is taking a hit from the deadly coronavirus outbreak with two marquee names cancelling plans.
The show, operated by mobile industry trade organisation GSMA, takes place from February 24 to 27, but at least one global tech giant has already decided to skip it.
South Korea’s LG Electronics is withdrawing from exhibiting at the conference because, it said, most health experts advised against “needlessly” exposing hundreds of employees to international travel.
Shenzhen, China-based ZTE Corp, which makes smartphones and wireless networking equipment, has cited difficulties in travelling out of China while virus-containment restrictions are in place at the country, and so it’s cancelling its MWC press conference, though it will still send a delegation.
These companies usually occupy two of the largest, most central exhibition zones at the Fira Gran Via venue, and both were expected to contribute to an industrywide push to make fifth-generation networking and devices mainstream this year. ZTE plans to roll out “a wide variety of new 5G devices” and will keep its usual exhibition spot. LG, keen to match compatriot arch-rival Samsung Electronics, maintains an outsize presence at the show even when it doesn’t launch any major new products, and so its absence this year will be obvious to attendees.
Other Asia-based companies are also closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak and may yet alter their plans, however most are sticking to their existing programmes.
Lenovo Group, parent of Motorola, says its MWC plans are still under discussion.
Xiaomi is sending its contingent to Barcelona as soon as possible “and will make necessary adjustment accordingly,” a spokesman said.
Samsung, Oppo, Huawei, Microsoft and MediaTek representatives all said their companies are preparing for MWC as planned.
Several major US technology firms, including Qualcomm and Alphabet’s Google, are also scheduled to participate and play big roles at this year’s conference.
On its website, the GSMA says it “continues to monitor and assess the potential impact of the coronavirus” on its event and has “implemented many measures to help to mitigate the spread of the virus and is continuing to add other actions regularly.”