Article updated on April 1, 2021 with the announcement of Google that will not physically participate in the MWC.
Mobile World Congress teams are planning to hold a physical event in June, but many companies have already announced that they will not be in Barcelona. Google is the latest firm to withdraw from the game: “In accordance with our COVID-19 travel restrictions and protocols, Google has made the decision not to exhibit at Mobile World Congress this year.”. The search giant maintains its virtual participation in the event.
Google’s physical absence is a big blow to the organizers. The company tends to occupy an important space of the Fira de Barcelona since its Android mobile operating system equips the majority of phones in the world. If Google is the latest company not to attend the Barcelona show, it probably won’t be the last.
A growing list of absentees
Sony Mobile is the first smartphone maker to publicly state that it does not plan to attend the show: “ Sony Mobile has made the decision not to attend MWC 2021A spokesperson for the company said in a statement.
Nokia has also said it will not be on site, but will participate in the event virtually. ” The health of our employees, customers and partners is of utmost importance to usThe company said in a statement. “Given the international nature of the event and the fact that the global vaccine rollout is still in its early stages, we have made the decision to only participate in the virtual event.“
They are joined by Ericsson, which was the first company to confirm that it will not be present this year. The Swedish telecommunications network giant, which is still one of the biggest exhibitors, announced on Tuesday that it will not attend MWC 2021: “In view of the continued impacts of Covid-19 and our primary consideration for our employees, their health and well-being, we have decided not to participate in MWC 2021Ericsson said in a statement.
Facebook, another regular attendee, will also not be attending this year’s show, due to a policy put in place last year in which the company said it would not attend events in person until at the end of June 2021 due to the pandemic.
The organizer respects this decision
The GSMA, the organizer of MWC, said in its own statement that it “respectEricsson’s decision to withdraw from the show and indicated that it plans to create a virtual platform to support businesses and journalists who cannot attend in person.
Google, Sony, Nokia and Ericsson are probably not the only companies not attending the conference this year. Normally around 100,000 people attend MWC. Attendance should be much lower this year.
Meet in person
MWC was one of the first major global events to be canceled last year, when the novel coronavirus turned into a full-blown pandemic. About a week before journalists and businesses traveled to Barcelona in February 2020, the show organizers canceled the event. Much of this is because many large companies have said they will not participate. Ericsson was one of the first companies to pull out.
At the time, the organization of a virtual fair was new. The MWC ended up being canceled entirely and the mobile companies had to organize their own launch events. Since then, CES, Apple events, and various other tech product launches have taken place entirely online. In 2021, Samsung has already organized two virtual Unpacked events: one for the S21, the other for the A52, A52 5G and A72.
But other lectures were held in physics, however with a limited number of participants. The September 2020 IFA had around 5,000 participants compared to the usual 200,000. And in February, the GSMA held its MWC in Shanghai with around 17,000 attendees. No cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on the spot, the organization toldBloomberg. The fact remains that MWC Barcelona could attract many more participants from more parts of the world, which would increase the risk of infection as the vaccines are rolled out.
Ericsson’s announcement came just hours after the GSMA presented its health and safety measures.
Participants will need to present negative COVID-19 tests before being allowed to fly to Spain, and they will need to produce a negative rapid test on site and have their temperature checked to access the MWC site. Participants will be required to retest every 72 hours, and the My MWC app will notify them when the test is about to expire. They will also need to respect social distancing, wear masks and complete daily health questionnaires in the conference app.
Inside the site, the GSMA will implement one-way traffic at entrances and exits and create a “contactless” environment where badges will be scanned. La Fira has strengthened sanitation and implemented a new fresh air ventilation system to improve air circulation. It will also have more medical staff on site.
Many other major exhibitors have said they are following developments. AT&T, one of the largest US carriers, reported in mid-March that it still plans to attend the event in person, but is closely monitoring infection rates and vaccine deployment.
Qualcomm, the world’s largest 5G chipmaker, said in a statement that although its new CEO, Cristiano Amon, is due to speak at MWC, he“will continue to monitor the situation and work with the GSMA ahead of the event”. Samsung is also studying the possibilities of participation on site.
A virtual conference for those absent
“We are aware that it will not be possible for everyone to attend MWC Barcelona 2021Said the GSMA. “This is why we have developed a virtual event platform that will allow everyone to enjoy the unique experience of MWC.”
MWC brings together companies from all over the world, and many of them are using the week-long trade fair in Barcelona to showcase their latest smartphones and talk about advances in 5G and other wireless technologies.
This event is critical for the mobile industry for two main reasons: it’s where vendors bring attention to their new devices and it’s where companies make deals behind the scenes.
CNET.com article with CNETFrance