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MWC sees phone makers depart due to Coronavirus

The world’s biggest mobile phone show is on later this month, and at this rate, we’re not even sure if mobile phone companies will be there.

With no cure yet for the Coronavirus and mobile phone component factories paused in the midst of the pandemic in China, it’s pretty clear Coronavirus is making an impact on mobiles.

Of course, the effect on humans is the most important part, and as researchers look to recreate the virus to find a cure, and countries look to containment and treatment, it’s not hard to imagine that everyone is taking this thing seriously. However in the mobile world, manufacturers are responding with caution, and are pulling out of Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Spain one by one.

First it was ZTE, which cancelled its press conference but said it would have a reduced presence. You might not know the name ZTE, but it produces hardware for telcos, including Telstra’s recent Tough Max 3.

Next came LG, which pulled its presence entirely, press conference and all, stating that:

With the safety of its employees, partners and customers foremost in mind, LG has decided to withdraw from exhibiting and participating in MWC 2020 later this month in Barcelona, Spain.

This decision removes the risk of exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel which has already become more restrictive as the virus continues to spread across borders.

In lieu of its participation in MWC, LG will be holding separate events in the near future to announce its 2020 mobile products.

It’s not just Mobile World Congress that LG has pulled out of, but also the Integrated System Europe show, an AV, lighting, and professional integration installation show set for this week in Amsterdam, with Coronavirus the culprit again.

Following these two, we heard that telco hardware company Ericsson has dropped its presence, as has chip maker Nvidia, and the juggernaut that is Amazon.

And if you thought that was it, that mobile companies were done with leaving MWC citing the Coronavirus as a concern, you would be wrong.

Just more recently, TCL Communications has cancelled its conference (which also likely means no Alcatel conference, either), while Sony has released a statement that it will not be attending Mobile World Congress 2020.

Samsung is reportedly scaling back its presence, as well, though the company is launching its phones ahead of MWC at Unpacked this week in the US.

At this rate, that brings the number of major mobile makers not having a MWC 2020 press conference to eight, and we still have a week to go before many journalists — us included — jump on a flight to make the trip to Mobile World Congress in Spain.

Earlier this week, the GSM Association that runs Mobile World Congress said that it would be enhancing security and taking precautions amidst the Coronavirus, and that the show would continue, implementing procedures such as temperature screening, increasing cleaning and disinfection, communication of a “no-handshake policy” to all attendees, and to prevent travellers from China’s Hubei province access, while travellers who have been to China will need to “demonstrate proof they have been outside of China 14 days prior to the event” with a passport stamp and health certificate.

A technology show without handshakes is interesting enough, but it’s also a show that involves small pieces of hardware meant to be touched and held to the face of attendees, no doubt a very easy way to share germs quickly. In years prior before the Coronavirus, this wasn’t so much a problem, but now amidst the pandemic, it’s hard not to see the concern.

Despite this, GSMA remains adamant that the show will run ahead, confirming that it has more than 2800 exhibitors, despite the departure of some of the majors.

However that could change in the coming days, and if more major mobile companies decide to pull out citing health and safety above all.

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