Mobile World Congress Barcelona is still slated to go forward in less than two weeks, but the telecom industry’s largest annual event is already seeing some significant impacts as companies large and small either reduce their presence or pull out of attending altogether, due to worries about risks from the novel coronavirus.

The GSMA has attempted to calm fears and reduce transmission risks through a variety of measures, from banning would-be attendees from China’s Hubei province (the epicenter of the epidemic) and others who have been in China within two weeks of the show, a “no handshake” recommendation and frequent disinfection of surfaces such as handrails and common touchscreens. But announcements continue to snowball from companies which have decided that the risks are still too great to attend.

According to published press reports citing anonymous sources, the GSMA has a scheduled pre-event meeting for Friday at which it may make a decision on whether to hold the event or cancel. Reached by RCR Wireless News, the organization said that it does not comment on internal meetings.

Coronavirus cases have largely been confined to China and in particular to the Hubei province, where it is believed to have originated in Wuhan. The virus has infected more than 43,000 people and killed more than 1,000, according to the most recent available figures. The epicenter of the epidemic continues to be China, where more than 31,700 cases are confirmed and all but two of the deaths have occurred. The disease has been detected in at least 24 other countries, with most cases involving people who had traveled in China. The disease readily spreads from person to person and is believed to be transmitted via close contact—within about six feet of an infected person. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It’s currently unclear,” the CDC said, if a person can get the virus by touching a surface or object with the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.

According to Spanish news outlets, a group of the largest Tier One European operators, including Vodafone, BT, Orange, and Spain’s Telefonica, are in close contact with each other on a mutual decision whether to attend—and a call by Telefonica, the primary carrier in MWC’s host country, is seen as a bellweather.

Reduced attendance at the telecom industry’s largest conference will impact both the companies involved and host city Barcelona, which got an estimated $515 million boost from the event last year. According to figures from the GSMA, around 5-6% of the shows attendees are from China. Reuters reported that Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE have said they will still attend, although they are ordering China-based staff to self-isolate ahead of the show and bringing in European staff to cover for those not able to attend from China.

The GSMA confirmed that “some large exhibitors have decided not to come to the show this year with others still contemplating next steps,” but said that as of earlier this week, it still had more than 2,800 exhibitors expected.

Travelers from Hubei province will not be allowed to attend, and all travelers who have been in China will “need to demonstrate proof they have been outside of China 14 days prior to the event.” The GSMA also will have temperature screenings in place, and attendees “will need to self-certify they have not been in contact with anyone infected.” The organization is instituting a microphone disinfecting-and-change protocol for all speakers, as well as increasing disinfection of high-traffic touch-points such as entrances and exits, catering areas, handrails and WCs and doubling its on-site medical support.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and will adapt our plans according to developments and advice we receive. We are contending with a constantly evolving situation, that will require fast adaptability,” the GSMA said.

Companies whose MWC plans have changed include:

-LG announced on February 5th that it would not attend the show. “This decision removes the risk of exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel which has already become more restrictive as the virus continues to spread across borders,” the company said, adding that “In lieu of its participation in MWC, LG will be holding separate events in the near future to announce its 2020 mobile products.”

-Ericsson is opting for a series of local events in multiple markets, in lieu of attending MWC.

“As one of the largest exhibitors, Ericsson has thousands of visitors in its hall each day and even if the risk is low, the company cannot guarantee the health and safety of its employees and visitors,” the company said in a statement.

“The health and safety of our employees, customers and other stakeholders are our highest priority. This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We were looking forward to showcasing our latest innovations at MWC in Barcelona. It is very unfortunate, but we strongly believe the most responsible business decision is to withdraw our participation from this year’s event,” said Börje Ekholm, Ericsson’s president and CEO.

-Amdocs cancelled its participation earlier this week.

“While we appreciate the precautionary measures put into place by the (organizer) GSMA, we believe the safest option is not to attend MWC 2020 in Barcelona,” Amdocs CEO Shuky Sheffer said in a statement.

-Intel told VentureBeat that it is pulling out of the event “out of an abundance of caution.”

-NTT DoCoMo is the first major carrier to bail out of MWC, with Reuters reporting that it will not attend.

-U.S. chipmaker Nvidia said in a statement that it will not attend due to coronavirus risks. “We regret not attending, but believe this is the right decision,” the company said.

-Ciena said today that it will not attend MWC “due to growing concerns about and the increasing spread of the novel coronavirus.”

“We have been closely monitoring the situation and, in order to best safeguard the health and wellbeing of our employees, customers and partners, we have made the difficult decision to withdraw our participation in MWC 2020. We appreciate the extensive efforts and precautionary measures put in place by the GSMA, and we look forward to participating in future events with them,” said Gary Smith, president & chief executive officer, Ciena.

-Sony will not attend and instead will offer a video press conference announcing its news on February 24.

-Amazon told TechCrunch that it is not attending MWC.

Other confirmed or reported cancellations include CommScope, F5 Networks, Accedian, InterDigital and Radwin, Cisco and Facebook.

The post Coronavirus concerns, cancellations impacting MWC attendence appeared first on RCR Wireless News.


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