Mobile World Congress Canceled After Coronavirus Scares Off Major Companies

More than two dozen companies had announced they were bowing out

A Barcelona sign
Mobile World Congress is typically attended by more than 100,000 people. Getty Images
Headshot of Patrick Kulp

Organizers of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona announced today that this year’s conference will be canceled after more than two dozen companies pulled out due to concerns about the global coronavirus outbreak.

Typically attended by more than 100,000 people, the late-February event has been the wireless industry’s biggest trade show for more than three decades. But this year’s event was already facing the prospect of a much-diminished crowd as a wave of major companies including Facebook, AT&T and Nokia said this week that they would no longer be attending for fear of exposing employees to the respiratory disease.

The cancellation was announced in an emailed statement from GSMA, the trade group behind the event, citing “global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event.”

“The GSMA and the host city partners will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions,” the statement said. “Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world.”

With the number of coronavirus cases now surpassing 40,000—and the death toll more than 1,000—organizers of other major international conferences have also begun to grapple with how to best prepare safety measures. Medical professionals in the event space advise those attending such events to avoid handshakes and defer to information from public health agencies.

@patrickkulp Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.