Mobile World Congress to go on as planned; LG backs out owing to coronavirus scare

Huawei is unlikely to send people from China, but will instead send local engineers the company has in Europe.

An international telecoms conference in Barcelona that attracts more than 100,000 visitors will go ahead as planned this month, the organiser said, even after Korea's LG Electronics withdrew due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Mobile World Congress has come under scrutiny since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus epidemic a public health emergency of international concern.

GSMA, an industry association representing more than 750 operators and 400 companies in the mobile business, said it had seen minimal impact so far on the event, which would be held as scheduled from 24 to 27 February.

(Also read: Coronavirus outbreak FAQ: Face masks, safe meat, tips to stay safe from the deadly airborne infection)

 Mobile World Congress to go on as planned; LG backs out owing to coronavirus scare

"We have spoken to LG and regret not to see them at this year's MWC20 Barcelona," a GSMA spokesperson said in response to a Reuters inquiry following the announcement by the South Korean electronics group.

The association this week announced measures to help prevent the spread of the virus across the Congress's three main venues, including changing microphones between speakers and advising all attendees to adopt a "no-handshake policy".

The newly identified virus, which first appeared in Wuhan late last year, has killed nearly 500 people in China, as well as one person in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.

Mainland China has reported more than 24,000 confirmed cases, while more than 150 cases have been confirmed in two dozen countries and regions around the world.

On Wednesday China's Huawei Technologies said it would take part in Congress as planned. "We are keeping a close eye on matters and having to internally adjust accordingly and responsibly," said a spokesman.

Huawei is unlikely to send people from headquarters in China, but will instead send local engineers the company has in Europe, sources told Reuters.

China's ZTE Corp and mobile phone maker Oppo said they would continue with plans to exhibit at the event while IT services provider NEC Corp said it was pushing forward with plans to attend for now.

ZTE Corp said all its staff and management travelling to the Congress from mainland China would undergo two weeks of self isolation after their arrival in Europe and the company would also disinfect its exhibition stand daily. But the company said the majority of its staff attending would travel from Europe rather than mainland China.

In 2019, some 6 percent of Mobile World Congress attendees were from China, according to GSMA's post-congress report. Most attendees were from Europe, around 64 percent, as were about 45 percent of the exhibitors.

The GSMA estimates that the Mobile World Congress boosted the local Barcelona economy by around €470 million last year, as delegates pack the city's hotels, wine and dine contacts and pile into taxis to the sprawling Fira trade fair ground that hosts the event.


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