Ericsson has withdrawn from the already-postponed Mobile World Congress 2021, a major blow to the event that is planned for late June in Barcelona.
In a statement to EE Times, the Swedish group said:
“In view of the continuing impacts from Covid-19 and our primary consideration towards our people, their health and well-being, we have decided not to participate in MWC 2021.”
Ericsson, regularly one of the largest exhibitors for the MWC, was also the first to bail out of the event, in February 2020, with just 16 days to go.
The statement continued: “The decision, whilst regrettable, reflects our precautionary approach to managing the pandemic from a people and travel perspective whilst vaccination programmes are rolled out globally. We look forward to the opportunity to re-join future events and continue to work closely with the GSMA and industry partners.”
The news came just hours after the GSMA, the owner and organizer of the event, outlined a hugely detailed list of do’s and don’ts for both the exhibition and accompanying conference.
In response, the GSMA said: “We respect Ericsson’s decision and look forward to welcoming the company back to Barcelona for future editions of MWC. We appreciate that it will not be possible for everyone to attend Barcelona 2021. This is why we have developed an industry-leading virtual event platform that will ensure everyone can enjoy the unique MWC experience.”
To date, EE Times knows of no other company that has withdrawn — the few we have contacted declined to comment on their plans.
The GSMA was hoping to attract between 40,000 to 50,000 visitors to the show, half the usual contingent.
The health and safety plan that it issued Monday (8th March), dubbed Committed Community, talks of “a layered approach designed to create a safe environment for staff, workers, exhibitors, visitors, suppliers partners and he local community.” This includes frequent testing, contact tracing, a “touchless environment,” increased medical staff, occupancy monitoring and enforcing social distancing.
The restrictions will commence at the airports and railway stations, where attendees will need to show evidence of a negative test that was taken just days earlier. And anyone who manages to get into the Fira will receive a reprimand should they stray out of the specially designated, one-way system lanes. Masks will be compulsory at all times, even in the “revamped catering” areas.
John Hoffman, the Association’s CEO, said: “Our experience with multiple events gives us a rock-solid foundation from which we have built our plans. This foundation means Barcelona 2021 can go ahead safely, in person, with a digital online component for those unable to attend.”
The GSMA sent out similar reassurances back in February 2020, but eventually, after many others decided to cancel, was compelled to cancel that event. True, the pandemic had only just taken hold then, and is beginning to come under control in many parts of the world, but Spain has suffered more than most countries.
In its statement, the GSMA also acknowledged that restrictions could impact people travelling from several countries, notably the UK and USA, but at the time of writing had not cancelled MWC 2021.
If it is forced to call off its show-piece event once again, it would mean a huge black hole in the GSMA’s finances. The Association which has already had to lay off some 20% of its staff following the cancellation of last year’s event.
The GSMA generates a significant proportion of its annual income from the shows. The annual MWC Shanghai event went ahead last month, with just 17,000 people attending, significantly down on previous years, and the Association is hoping to use the experience gained from that “test run”, which it said ran smoothly with no cases of the Coronavirus emerging. And the Association conceded the show had a predominantly local physical audience, but huge numbers on-line.
If the Barcelona show does go ahead, it will be one of the first exhibitions of its type to do so in Europe for well over a year.
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