“The GSMA has canceled 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,” John Hoffman, the CEO of organizer GSMA
The Mobile World Congress (MWC), the annual telecoms industry gathering that draws more than 100,000 visitors to Barcelona, was canceled after a mass exodus by exhibitors due to fears over the coronavirus outbreak.
Bowing to the inevitable, the GSMA telecoms association that hosts the get-together said it had canceled the Feb. 24-27 event despite assurances from local and national health officials that it would have been safe to hold it.
“The GSMA has canceled 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,” John Hoffman, the CEO of organizer GSMA, said in a statement.
The announcement followed a crisis meeting of the GSMA board, after its hand was forced by the pullout of anchor European members including Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE), Vodafone (VOD.L), BT (BT.L) and Nokia (NOKIA.HE).
Spain’s Telefonica, one of the biggest telecom operators not to have announced it was pulling out, said on Wednesday evening it “understands the GSMA’s decision to cancel the Mobile World Congress 2020 due to the situation generated by coronavirus.”
It said it would always support Barcelona as host city of the Mobile World Congress.
Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, said earlier she wanted to send a “message of calm,” insisting the city was ready to host the event, while Spanish health officials reiterated that there was no reason to call off MWC.
The World Health Organisation, a UN agency leading the coronavirus crisis response, had also called in vain for calm.
“There is no evidence at present to suggest that there is community spread outside China, so WHO is not currently requesting that large gatherings are canceled,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told Reuters in Geneva.
That failed, however, to alleviate concerns among major exhibitors that the precautions would be insufficient to halt the virus, which has spread beyond China’s borders to two dozen countries.
“To bring people together and connect them: That is what Telekom stands for. This is also what the Mobile World Congress, the ‘class reunion’ of our industry, stands for,” Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges posted on LinkedIn.