Mobile World Congress, the world’s biggest mobile technology showcase and launch pad for a renewed 5G-devices push this year, is taking a hit from the deadly coronavirus outbreak with two marquee names canceling plans.
The show, operated by mobile industry trade organization GSMA, takes place from Feb. 24 to 27, but at least one global tech giant has already decided to skip it. South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc. is withdrawing from exhibiting at the conference because, it said, most health experts advised against “needlessly” exposing hundreds of employees to international travel.
Shenzhen, China-based ZTE Corp., which makes smartphones and wireless networking equipment, has cited difficulties in traveling out of China while virus-containment restrictions are in place at the country, and so it’s canceling its MWC press conference, though it will still send a delegation.
These companies usually occupy two of the largest, most central exhibition zones at the Fira Gran Via venue, and both were expected to contribute to an industrywide push to make fifth-generation networking and devices mainstream this year. ZTE plans to roll out “a wide variety of new 5G devices” and will keep its usual exhibition spot. LG, keen to match compatriot arch rival Samsung Electronics Co., maintains an outsize presence at the show even when it doesn’t launch any major new products, and so its absence this year will be obvious to attendees.
Other Asia-based companies are also closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak and may yet alter their plans, however most are sticking to their existing programs.
- Huawei Technologies Co., based in Shenzhen, is considering a range of options which include leaving its current plans unchanged, flying executives from China to Spain early, or even canceling travel plans altogether, said a U.K.-based spokesman.
- Lenovo Group Ltd., parent of Motorola, says its MWC plans are still under discussion.
- Xiaomi Corp. is sending its contingent to Barcelona as soon as possible “and will make necessary adjustment accordingly,” a spokesman said.
- Samsung, Oppo, Microsoft Corp. and MediaTek Inc. representatives all said their companies are preparing for MWC as planned.
Several major U.S. technology firms, including Qualcomm Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, are also scheduled to participate and play big roles at this year’s conference.
On its website, the GSMA says it “continues to monitor and assess the potential impact of the coronavirus” on its event and has “implemented many measures to help to mitigate the spread of the virus and is continuing to add other actions regularly.”