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MWC cancelled after dozens of vendors withdrew due to coronavirus fears

The GSMA has cancelled this year’s Mobile World Congress after dozens of vendors withdrew from the show over fears about the coronavirus outbreak.

MWC is one of the world’s largest technology conferences, typically drawing more than 100,000 people to Barcelona during the Catalan capital’s quieter winter period.

But as some of Europe’s largest telecoms networks pulled out, the GSMA – a trade association for the sector and the organisers of the show – announced that it would be “impossible” to go ahead.

In a statement issued on Wednesday evening, GSMA chief executive John Hoffman said: “Since the first edition of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2006, the GSMA has convened the industry, governments, ministers, policymakers, operators and industry leaders across the broader ecosystem.

“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event.

“The Host City Parties respect and understand this decision. The GSMA and the host city partners will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions.”

The decision came after Intel, BT/EE, Nvidia, Vodafone and others decided to withdraw from the exhibition. BT had said in a statement that while it “deeply [respects] the steps [the GSMA] have already taken to protect attendees […] the most responsible decision is to withdraw our participation from the event to safeguard our employees and customers”.

Nvidia described MWC as “one of the world’s most important technology conferences”, adding: “We’ve been looking forward to sharing our work in AI, 5G and vRAN with the industry. We regret not attending, but believe this is the right decision.”