Finnish networking vendor Nokia has announced the cancellation of its presence at Mobile World Congress 2020.

The announcement follows the decision of competitor Ericsson to withdraw from the event last week and of ZTE to at least scale back its presence. Furthermore Cisco has announced it’s pulling out and it seems Samsung Networks is too, so that only leaves Huawei among the major networking vendors and largest exhibitors at the event.

“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,” said the Nokia announcement. “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.

“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.”

Nokia, like many others that have pulled out, is going to try to honour the meeting commitments it made for the show, but that won’t be easy. Having said that a lot of telecoms industry professionals are now going to be at a loose end, having blocked out a week of their diaries months in advance for the event.

It’s really hard to see how the event can go ahead now. The majority of the most significant vendors will not be there and it looks like the major operators aren’t far behind. It’s unsettling how quickly a health emergency on the other side of the world can bring a massive undertaking like MWC grinding to a halt. Even more worrying for the event will be if a lot of people manage to achieve most of what they would have without attending as that may cause them to think twice about whether all the expense and hassle is worth it.


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