Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest telecoms and wireless trade show, has been officially cancelled due to disruption to its schedule caused by the coronavirus outbreak. It was due to take place from 24-27 February. 

The full statement from John Hoffman, CEO of the GSMA published today 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 Parties will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions.

“Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world.”

Rumours had been spreading throughout the week that the event was under pressure to be called off after major companies such as Intel, Sony, Amazon, Vivo and HMD pulled either their press conferences or full staff attendance. They cited a desire not to bring their staff into contact with coronavirus.

While there is no reported coronavirus case in Barcelona there are some in Spain, and travel complications were mounting for employees of companies attending from China and the areas most affected by the coronavirus. While the health concerns of such a large gathering after the outbreak are legitimate, the feeling until today had been that correct preparation would not completely derail the show.

But with major companies pulling and refusing to exhibit or attend, the GSMA has decided MWC is not viable for 2020. The organisation had already said any attendee who had been in China during the 14 days leading up to the event would not be permitted to attend. 

Not only an event where major smartphone companies such as Huawei, LG and Sony release their new products, MWC is also where thousands of important and lucrative telecoms deals are struck. Disruption to both may have a lasting effect on the industry.