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On February 12, Mobile World Congress (MWC) canceled the annual tech event amid fears of the coronavirus outbreak. Prior to the cancelation, dozens of major tech companies had already pulled out of the Barcelona-based event over concerns of the virus’ spread.
Since 1987, the MWC has grown into the largest global exhibition for mobile technology, offering one of the best chances for companies to show off their latest designs.
What is the MWC?
The annual MWC is scheduled to run from February 24-27, 2020, in the Fira Gran Via in Barcelona, Spain. The event is coordinated by the GSMA (the Groupe Spécial Mobile, also called the GSM Association), a global organization focused on developing and ensuring greater access to mobile technology.
The MWC event has been held in Barcelona since 2006 and is expected to remain there until at least 2023. In recent years the event has consistently attracted over 100,000 attendees, with a record 109,000 in 2019. There were also approximately 2,400 exhibitors at last year’s event.
The influx of visitors turns the MWC into a tourist boon for Barcelona. Last year’s event had an economic impact of €465 million for the city. For that reason, Barcelona negotiated to be named the Mobile World Capital with GSMA.
Many of the world’s largest tech companies appear at the annual event, including Sony, Intel, and Facebook. At 2019’s MWC, Samsung showed off their recently released Galaxy S10 series of phones, while Microsoft previewed the HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset. Additionally, Huawei brought their new foldable Mate X and multiple companies showed off 5G phones.
Uncertainty around the MWC 2020
The organizers behind the event announced on Wednesday that due to the ongoing fears of the virus, it would be “impossible" to hold the event this year.
“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, 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,” GSMA said in a statement.
Sony announced their withdrawal from the event in a several days earlier in a press release that stated, “We place the utmost importance on the safety and wellbeing of our customers, partners, media and employees.” The company was set to have a press conference at the MWC but will now stream it via their YouTube page.
Amazon, Facebook, and Intel also previously announced that they were withdrawing from the MWC this year, while major mobile tech companies that canceled prior the announcement from GSMA, include LG, ZTE, and Ericsson.
This comes at a time when the European Union is developing its own 5G technology and seeking to foster relationships with tech companies. Mobile tech companies are working on developing the latest generation of mobile networks that will surpass the current global standard, 4G.
The MWC 2020 is an opportunity for companies to showcase their latest developments.
GSMA’s previous efforts to adapt to the coronavirus
Prior to the cancelation of the event, organizers behind the MWC posted on how they intended to ensure the health and safety of the event’s attendees. Much of their intended efforts focused on restricting access to visitors who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
This included not permitting access to any persons from China’s Hubei province (where the disease originated), and requiring proof from anyone that had recently left China, left over 14 days ago. The event also promised to conduct temperature screenings for all attendees.
Furthermore, event organizers planned to increase on-site medical support and train their staff members on best practices for preventing the spread of the viruses.
The coronavirus’ spreading impact
At the end of January, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus epidemic a global emergency. Since then, the outbreak has continued to worsen.
In the last week, 61 passengers of a Japanese cruise ship were diagnosed with coronavirus, while an American became the virus’ first non-Chinese death. As of Sunday, February 9, there had been nearly 40 confirmed cases in Europe, including two in Spain.
Fears over the virus have also had repercussions throughout the world economy. In January, global stock markets took a tumble, while Macau, the world’s largest casino industry, was shut down by the government.
The MWC isn’t the first event to be canceled due to the outbreak. On February 10, the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) canceled two tournaments in Thailand and Singapore.In New York City, Lunar New Year events were canceled last month, even though no official cases had been detected there.