The GSMA finally yielded to the inevitable and cancelled MWC late on Wednesday

  • Fears of coronavirus had seen telecoms operator and vendor boards frantically meeting to plot scenarios and responses in expectation of the GSMA canning the show
  • Meanwhile there was a steady stream of departing exhibitors and attendees, every departure announcement amplified over social media 
  • In the end the show had obviously become unviable and the GSMA was forced to act and cancel

It’s been an afternoon of ‘breaking news’ as the trickle of pull-outs responding to fears that the Barcelona Mobile World Congress (MWC) would be a global exchange point for the coronavirus, appeared to be accelerating into a full-on flood. 

The first major pull-out occurred last Friday when Ericsson, one of the largest exhibitors, walked away saying it would host smaller events to get its messages out. It claimed it was worried about its inability to guarantee the health and safety of its employees and visitors. 

But on Wednesday the dam burst with a slew of high level defections. Nokia joined Ericsson along with BT, DT and then Vodafone, as they all headed for the exit. 

Meanwhile there’s been jostling between the mayor of Barcelona and the GSMA, apparently over the insurance ramifications of the plug being pulled without the cover of the WHO or the Spanish government declaring an emergency.

Unconfirmed reports say the mayor has refused to call a state of emergency, saying there was “no reason whatsoever" to do so, according to a report by Spanish publication La Vanguardia.

That appeared to mean that the GSMA had wanted an out, but didn’t want to be left holding the can by pulling the plug too early and then getting sued by dozens of angry Barcelona hoteliers.

We had been expecting an announcement that the event had been cancelled by our press time, but as none had arrived, we published an ‘MWC in the balance’ story and waited on events.

Word finally came at about 7.00 pm BST and this is the updated story. Ahh, the wonders of modern communications technology.


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