In a nutshell: With every day bringing news of another big company dropping out of Mobile World Congress over coronavirus fears, it’s starting to look as if the event might be canceled. According to new reports, organizer GSMA is holding a meeting this Friday to decide the fate of the upcoming show.
In a statement earlier this week, GSMA assured the 2,800 exhibitors that the show would go ahead as planned, but we’ve since had confirmation that other big names won’t be attending. Facebook, Nokia, Royole, Cisco, McAfee, AT&T, and Sprint won't be participating, and more will doubtlessly drop out before the February 24 start date in Barcelona.
Canceling an appearance is proving costly for smaller firms. Israel/New York-based software startup Lightico told the BBC it expected to lose the $15,000 it had invested in its place at the event by not attending, though it will have a “virtual booth.”
Spanish publication El Pais writes that GSMA will meet this Friday to decide its next steps, which could include suspending the event. It adds that Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom are also considering skipping the show.
According to Wired, GSMA is pleading with the Spanish government to declare a health emergency, which would allow it to cancel the world's biggest phone show. Its sources say a decision on whether the event will go ahead could arrive as soon as today.
Canceling MWC would be a massive decision, leaving the 100,000+ attendees dealing with potentially non-refundable flights and hotel bookings.
GSMA has announced new precautions to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. These include banning all travelers from the Hubei province and temperature screening.