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Mobile meet called off

GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona because of the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak

By Reuters in Berlin , Paris and Barcelona

  • Published 14.02.20, 1:40 AM
  • Updated 14.02.20, 1:40 AM
A worker fixes a poster of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday.
A worker fixes a poster of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday. (AP)

The Mobile World Congress (MWC), the annual telecom industry gathering that draws more than 100,000 visitors to Barcelona, was cancelled on Wednesday after a mass exodus by exhibitors because of fears over the coronavirus outbreak.

Bowing to the inevitable, the GSMA telecom association that hosts the get-together said it had cancelled the February 24-27 event despite assurances from local and national health officials that it would have been safe to hold it.

“The GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances make it impossible to hold the event,” John Hoffman, the CEO of organiser GSMA, said in a statement.

The announcement followed a crisis meeting of the GSMA board, after its hand was forced by the pullout of anchor European members including Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, BT and Nokia.

Spain’s Telefonica, one of the biggest telecom operators not to have announced it was pulling out, said on Wednesday evening it “understands the GSMA’s decision to cancel the Mobile World Congress 2020 due to the situation generated by coronavirus”.

Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, said earlier she wanted to send a “message of calm,” insisting the city was ready to host the event, while Spanish health officials reiterated that there was no reason to call off MWC. The World Health Organisation had also called in vain for calm. 

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