Nokia joins list of firms pulling out of Mobile World Congress over coronavirus

This year’s edition of the annual Mobile World Congress (#MWC20) has suffered another blow in terms of exhibitor and speaker participation with the withdrawal of Nokia from the event over fears of the coronavirus which has become a global health concern.

In a statement issued today, the Espoo, Finland-based firm said that it “has been carefully monitoring the situation following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, with the goal of making a fact-based decision related to our attendance at Mobile World Congress in 2020.”

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

“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.”

Instead of the common practice of meeting and engaging customers and stakeholders in Barcelona during the annual event, Nokia said that its plans to go directly to customers with a series of “Nokia Live” events aimed at showcasing the industry-leading demos and launches scheduled for MWC.

The withdrawal of Nokia from the event follows the earlier cancellation by LG, Sony, chip maker Intel, Amazon, Swedish equipment maker Ericsson, software provider Amdocs and chipmaker Nvidia among others.

Like Nokia, Sony also said it plans to host and engage customers and stakeholders via video.

So far, China’s technology giants – Huawei and ZTE – have confirmed that they’ll participate at #MWC20. For health concerns, ZTE however said that it will ensure that all its employees from mainland China, including non-Chinese nationals, have no symptoms 2 weeks before departure and arrival in Barcelona for the #MWC20. In addition to this, at the current time all employees are required to undergo 2 weeks self-isolation to ensure the health and safety of all our staff. The firm also announced that it will ensure that all the senior executives of the company participating in the high-level meetings will self-isolate themselves in Europe for at least two weeks prior to #MWC20.

Because the exhibitors make booth bookings in advance, it is unclear whether they’ll be eligible for a refund from the GSMA, the organiser MWC.

However, Reuters reported that if participants (whether exhibitor companies or delegates) cancel, they have to bear the cost, meaning there’s no refund of the fees already paid. The GSMA, the industry association with a membership of more than 1,000, is only liable should it call off and fail to host the event.

This year’s Mobile World Congress is scheduled for February 24 – 27, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain, is regarded as the telecom industry’s annual biggest conference and expo.

In 2019, China – the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus – accounted for about 6% of Mobile World Congress attendees, according to GSMA’s post-event report. The event drew majority of attendees from Europe (about 64%) and about 45% of the exhibitors.


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