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ZTE and LG Are Out: Will Coronavirus Cancel MWC 2020?



Just a few hours after Chinese phone manufacturer ZTE canceled its Mobile World Congress appearance due to travel concerns over coronavirus, LG announced that it will also be skipping MWC 2020. While the GSMA remains cautiously optimistic about going ahead with the event, it begs the question, will the show go on?

“With the safety of its employees and general public foremost in mind, LG has decided to withdraw from exhibiting and participating in MWC 2020 later this month in Barcelona, Spain,” LG said in an emailed statement. “This decision will prevent needlessly exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel, which most health experts have advised.”

Richard Lai, of Engadget China, reported earlier today that Chinese phone manufacturer Xiaomi will not be bringing Chinese media to the event, though it appears the company still plans to exhibit at the show.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, a number of travel restrictions have been imposed, in particular to and from China. While both ZTE and Xiaomi are China-based companies, LG is not, and it’s possible other companies could follow LG’s lead. Chinese brands like Xiaomi, Oppo, and Huawei are top five mobile competitors globally, but if companies as big as LG are bowing out, it stands to reason that others are strongly considering it too.

That said, GSMA, which is the organization behind Mobile World Congress, earlier made a statement saying that it intends to go ahead with the show — but that it would increase the cleaning on-site, and provide better medical support. Today, the GSMA updated its previous statement to clarify that the MWC 2020 is still scheduled, currently for February 24 to February 27 in Barcelona. The organization’s website has also posted a detailed list of precautions being taken.

“The GSMA is building on its existing plans to protect the health of our attendees, clients, and staff at MWC Barcelona. GSMA colleagues around the world are taking strong measures to contain and lessen any further spread of the virus,” said the company in a statement.

If MWC does still take place, it could be a significantly smaller show. LG is one of the larger companies that usually takes advantage of the event to announce upcoming devices for the year and ZTE has a significant global footprint, as well. A third, or even fourth company dropping out would create an absence that’s plainly felt, leaving the fate of MWC 2020 in the balance.

Coronavirus has already killed more than 400 people and infected more than 20,000, and its spread has yet to be contained. A number of tech companies have closed their offices in the region — a trend that’s likely to continue over the coming weeks.

Only time will tell if Mobile World Congress will, or should go on, but as companies continue to pull out, we can bet that the GSMA is considering canceling the event.

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