Divided GSMA decides on Friday if Mobile World Congress takes place

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Spain’s third-largest newspaper, La Vanguardia, reports that the Mobile World Congress (MWC) may be cancelled altogether this year. Opinions differ within the GSMA, the organiser, to continue with the event. There will be a GSMA meeting on Friday, and a final decision will be made. Although, it might be wiser to pull the plug right now.

The event is on the agenda from 24 to 27 February, but a number of large companies have decided to withdraw because of the Corona virus. The reason companies are giving up is that they don’t want to expose their staff, partners and customers to unnecessary risks. As the Mobile World Congress attracts a very diverse international crowd, including attendees from China, many companies are opting out of this edition. Most companies have already invested hundreds of thousands or even millions of euros in the 2020 edition.

List of companies

Among the companies that are opting out are Amazon, Amdocs, Accedian, AT&T, Cisco, CommScope, Ericsson, Facebook, Gigaset, Intel, LG, McAfee, MediaTek, NTT Docomo, NVIDIA, Rakuten, Sony, Sprint, Telnet, Umidigi, Viavi and Vivo. Other companies have already made significant cutbacks in their activities so that they will have to employ fewer staff members.

GSMA, an association of telecom providers and manufacturers

The GSMA is an association of all major telecom providers and manufacturers from all over the world. The GSMA is also the organiser of the Mobile World Congress. On the board are the 25 largest operators.

Ericsson was one of the first manufacturers to decide to stay at home. Competitors of Ericsson are Nokia and Huawei. Nokia has let it be known that it has yet to make a decision, but the company seems to have serious doubts about the event. Huawei will come, but with a much smaller line-up. The telecom providers are divided.

Number of GSMA members want to cancel MWC

In another Spanish newspaper, we read that the CEOs of major telecom providers such as Deutsche Telecom and Vodafone want to pull the plug on MWC. However, they want to do this in a joint decision with other large telecom providers. Orange and Telefonica, however, are not yet convinced. The Spanish telecom provider Telefonica sees itself as the host, as the event is being held in Barcelona and is undoubtedly under political pressure. The fair has an added value of 492 million euros for the city of Barcelona. The CEO of Orange, Stéphane Richard, is president of the GSMA, the association that organises the MWC.

Discord within GSMA

NTT Docomo was the first telecom operator to decide to withdraw and is therefore undoubtedly in favour of cancelling the event. Apparently, Deutsche Telecom and Vodafone also want to cancel. Now AT&T and Sprint, two big US operators, have cancelled and won’t be attending the event. The big question that now remains is exactly how big the division in opinions is. What do the other telecom providers want?

According to La Vanguardia, an official decision of the GSMA will follow on Friday. Then there will be a meeting in which the decision has to be made. Continue with the event, or pull the plug a week in advance. Both choices are tough to make. An enormous number of parties is involved, and they suffer as a result of this. On the other hand, health is not for sale, so how big is the risk, and do you want to take it?

How viable is MWC 2020 still?

If the division within the GSMA is great, then it might be a better question to ask how viable this edition still is? If the choice is made to continue with the event, but then a dozen or even more large companies (e.g. Deutsche Telecom, Vodafone and Nokia to name just three) will still pull out. Then that creates a huge hole in the event. According to reports, the current cancellations have already resulted in a 10 percent vacancy rate. If that rises to 20, 30 or even 40 percent, then the experience for the visitor is already very poor. In that case, perhaps it would be better to pull the plug now.

We will follow the choices of companies closely, just like the decision of the GSMA, but it doesn’t look good for MWC 2020.

Updated 12-02 10:00: List of companies that cancelled.