Each day that gets us closer to this year’s Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain, also adds thousands of new confirmed coronavirus infections and tens of additional deaths. The virus might not be as deadly as the flu, but it’s still giving some of the leading players in tech a good reason to reconsider their presence at the world’s biggest mobile tech show. Every year MWC draws in tens of thousands of people from all over the world, who come to Barcelona to launch their newest mobile products, ink new partnerships, or witness these press events as they unfold. MWC 2020 will be the first edition that will be remembered for the significant absentees, companies that would otherwise deliver some of the show’s biggest announcements.
LG and ZTE were the first big names to cancel their MWC press events a few days ago, and then Swedish telecom giant Ericsson announced it’ll sit this one out over coronavirus concerns. More companies followed, including Nvidia, Amazon, and Sony — the latter was supposed to announce its newest smartphones at the show but said it’ll hold an online-only Xperia event come February 24th.
The organizer of the show said in a few separate announcements that the MWC show won’t be canceled in spite of the coronavirus threat, announcing over the weekend that additional measures will be set in place to deal with coronavirus-related health risks.
Even so, more companies announced their withdrawals from the show, including TCL, Intel, Vivo, and NTT Docomo.
“The safety and wellbeing of all our employees and partners is our top priority, and we have withdrawn from this year’s Mobile World Congress out of an abundance of caution,” Intel told VentureBeat.
NTT Docomo also pulled out of the congress, Reuters reports.
While the Japanese carrier might not have been an attraction for consumers looking for new mobile devices, Vivo was expected to launch a new Apex 2020 concept phone. The Chinese vendor used MWC in previous years to debut new hardware, but the company has canceled its plans for this year’s event, per The Verge.
TCL, meanwhile, canceled its press event, but plans to attend the show, and unveil a new generation of smartphones. “This decision does not impact any other MWC 2020 activities planned by the company, and TCL will still announce its latest mobile devices and showcase them at its booth,” the company told The Verge.
MWC 2020 takes place between February 24th and 27th, although some of the main announcements will drop over the weekend, with several companies set to reveal new products on February 22nd and 23rd. Until then, however, we might see even more cancelations, which could deliver a significant blow to the organizers and Barcelona.
As for the 2019-nCoV infections, the official number is at over 43,000, with most cases registered in China. More than 1,000 people died since the new disease was first discovered, including two people outside of China. At the same time, more than 4,000 people recovered from the illness, including 15 people outside of China, three of which were confirmed coronavirus cases in the USA.