Ericsson has pulled out of MWC Barcelona 2020 due to concerns over the safety of its staff with respect to the coronavirus. The move is a major blow for the event – Ericsson is one of the biggest exhibitors at the event, its stand taking up half of one of the venue’s massive exhibition halls. The move follows LG’s announcement earlier this week that it was pulling out of the show.
In a statement, Ericsson said: “After an extensive internal risk assessment, Ericsson has decided to take further precautionary measures by withdrawing from MWC Barcelona 2020, the largest event in the telecom industry.
“Ericsson appreciates that GSMA have done everything they can to control the risk. However, as one of the largest exhibitors, Ericsson has thousands of visitors in its hall each day and even if the risk is low, the company cannot guarantee the health and safety of its employees and visitors.”
Ericsson president and CEO, Börje Ekholm, added: “The health and safety of our employees, customers and other stakeholders are our highest priority. This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We were looking forward to showcasing our latest innovations at MWC in Barcelona. It is very unfortunate, but we strongly believe the most responsible business decision is to withdraw our participation from this year’s event.”
Rather than attend the show, Ericsson said it will take the demos and content created for MWC Barcelona to customers in their home markets with local events branded ‘Ericsson Unboxed’.
In addition to the Ericsson and LG pull-outs, ZTE said this week that any employees from China would have to show no symptoms of the virus for two weeks prior to the show, and then self-isolate between then and the show. It also said it would staff its stand with employees from outside China.
The next few days look crucial for the event. If a domino effect takes hold, the GSMA will have to take some tough decisions about whether, and it what form, to go ahead with it.
For the moment, the GSMA has issued a statement regarding Ericsson’s decision. It says:
“The GSMA regret to see Ericsson’s decision not to attend MWC Barcelona this year as they are an important player in our ecosystem. We respect their decision and are reassured by their commitment that they will be at MWC Barcelona 2021 in full force and our rebook trends for next year’s event remain high. Ericsson’s cancellation will have some impact on our presence at this time and will potentially have further impact.
"It is of great importance to the GSMA to continue to convene the industry at this critical time where connectivity is on the cusp of a new industrial revolution. Advocating across the industry through government and ministers, policymakers, operators and industry leaders has never been more critical.”
The statement concludes by restating that the event will proceed as planned across all venues.