Technophile

Will Coronavirus cast a shadow over the MWC 2020 tech show?

Our Bureau | Updated on February 10, 2020 Published on February 10, 2020

File photo

Amazon, LG, Ericsson, Nvidia and others pull out of the event

Tech enthusiasts have a handful of big global events to look forward to each year. That’s the CES in Las Vegas, MWC (Mobile World Congress) in Barcelona soon after, the IFA event in Berlin and, to some extent, the Computex show in Taiwan. CES 2020 passed off just fine in January. But now, the MWC show, expected to be held from February 24-27, is struggling to throw off the shadow of the Novel Coronavirus or 2019 n-CoV.

The fear of contracting the new and yet-to-be-understood Coronavirus is one factor giving tech enthusiasts a pause before they finalise their travel arrangements. Authorities are spelling out plans to safeguard attendees and participants by doing regular temperature checks, disallowing the old tradition of shaking hands, and not letting anyone who has been in China for a period of 14 days before the show or even been in contact with someone else who has, anywhere near the event.

Passports will be checked to ensure travel to China, but how the organisers will be able to screen whether there has been contact with someone who has been to China is not clear as that can be almost impossible to ascertain. Some tech journalists are cancelling their visit to the show, being less than keen on travel at this time and at being in the midst of milling crowds in the closed up spaces of an exhibition where there is often just elbow room at media centres. Despite the announcement that there will be medical professionals on-site, the threat of the virus is impacting the annual event.

Concern for employees

The more alarming fact is that of companies, including a sponsor, pulling out of the show altogether. Among the first companies to cancel its MWC appearance is when the company is in Korea and the show is in Spain. LG, however, stated that it was concerned about its employees and the public as they travel to the destination. Chinese firm ZTE has also withdrawn early on. Samsung has now reduced its presence at MWC though not yet pulled out altogether. Telecom giant Ericsson has also announced that it will not be attending. “Ericsson appreciates that GSMA have done everything they can to control the risk,” a press release says, “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.”

Interestingly, now NVIDIA, a major sponsor of the show and slated to hold a number of sessions and roundtables on AI, has also pulled out of the show in what must surely be a blow to the organisers and those travelling specifically for developments in this area of technology. Now, e-commerce giant Amazon has also chosen not to travel, attend or participate in the event over Coronavirus concerns.

Companies that will be present

At the same time, there are also companies making the effort to find safe workarounds to be at the MWC event. Oppo, Realme, Motorola, Vivo, and Honor are planning on being present at the show. So is Xiaomi which explains how it will handle travel restrictions and other problems: “At Xiaomi, human life takes precedence over everything else,” says a Xiaomi spokesperson “To ensure the priority, we are giving precedence to our team's safety travelling to MWC. Xiaomi today has global presence in over 80 markets, and we have teams present in different regions; and this year like previous years we have local support for MWC as well. Additionally, we are ensuring that all employees who travel to MWC from HQ will have been outside of China 14 days prior to the start of the event.”

The tech industry is bracing for the impact of the Coronavirus, with China being the manufacturing hub of the world. Tech giants are closing China offices and some are having their employees work from home even after the Lunar New Year period ends and people normally return to work. With factories not able to function normally, supply chain is being hit for products and components, throwing the schedule off for manufacturing companies.

Published on February 10, 2020
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor