Breaking news: Mobile World Congress 2020 finally cancelled due to Coronavirus fears

12 February 2020


The world's largest mobile telecoms show, which typically attracts over 100,000 visitors & over 2,000 exhibiting companies, has finally been cancelled this week after a raft of cancellations from exhibitors due to Coronavirus fears.

As concerns escalated over the previous two weeks, industry trade body and show organisers, GSMA had initially insisted the show, due to be held in Barcelona from 24-27th February, would go ahead, issuing a progressive series of updates designed to reassure show visitors and exhibitors, summarised below:

29 Jan:

•    GSMA is monitoring & assessing the situation; there is no impact on visitor registrations

•    The show will carefully follow & adhere to WHO (World Health Organization) recommendations

•    Working with the venue on sanitisation & precautionary measures

•    Responding to exhibitor & visitor questions

31 Jan:

•    WHO has declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)

04 Feb:

•    Minimal impact

•    No handshake policy

•    Mic changeover protocol

•    Signage

06 Feb:

•    Co-ordination with city health authorities

•    Recommendations to hotels, restaurants, transport providers

•    Free 24-hour security & medical telephone line

08 Feb:

•    GSMA regrets but understands Ericsson decision to cancel & pull out

•    Talking to other exhibitors

09 Feb:

•    Grateful to Chinese exhibitors, notably ZTE & Huawei, for additional preventative measures

•    Travellers from Hubei province will not be permitted access


•    Travellers who have been in China will need to demonstrate proof (passport stamp or health certificate) that they have been outside China for 14 days minimum prior to the show in order to gain access

•    Self-certification by all attendees that they have not had any contact with anyone infected with Coronavirus

•    Temperature screening to be implemented at the show

Despite these efforts by GSMA, and initial messages of support from some exhibitors insisting they planned to go ahead (including Samsung, Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi and Motorola), as the situation escalated, and once Ericsson pulled out, there were a raft of cancellations from exhibitors over the last few days, including: Accedian, Amazon, AT&T, BT, Cisco, Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, HMD Global, iconectiv, Intel, LG, McAfee, MediaTek, Nokia, Nvidia, Orange, Spirent, Sony, Viavi, Vivo, Vodafone, Volvo.

A report by tech news, site Wired suggested GSMA had urged Spanish authorities to declare a public health emergency, so that it could cancel the event. The report suggested insurance policies would not cover GSMA's losses if the organisation chose to cancel the event, rather than being required to do so by authorities declaring a health emergency. GSMA could have gone ahead with the event even if its numbers are decimated to avoid a hefty cancellation bill, sources said.

MWC generates around 14,000 temporary jobs in Barcelona and makes €492 million (almost £414m) for the city, according to a report from El Pais.

Barcelona's mayor, Ada Colau said on Wednesday afternoon that the city was "perfectly prepared" for Mobile World Congress to take place, and that there remained "no reason whatsoever" to apply emergency measures, according to a report by Spanish outlet, La Vanguardia.

However, it now seems those measures were deemed insufficient, as GSMA finally announced on 12th February that the show would not go ahead this year.

GSMA Statement on MWC Barcelona 2020 from John Hoffman, CEO, GSMA

Since the first edition of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2006, the GSMA has convened the industry, governments, ministers, policymakers, operators and industry leaders across the broader ecosystem.

With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event.

The Host City Parties respect and understand this decision.

The GSMA and the Host City Parties will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions.

Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world.

Further updates from the GSMA are on our website at and can also be found on

Organiser thoughts must surely turn now to next year's show and any potential knock-on impact caused by having to cancel this year's show, with exhibitors and visitors that will now not visit this year possibly reassessing their participation going forward.

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