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Cisco drops out of MWC21 citing virus concernsCisco drops out of MWC21 citing virus concerns

The US equipment maker will join Ericsson, Nokia and others in deciding to participate online and not attend the event in person.

Iain Morris

March 17, 2021

5 Min Read
Cisco drops out of MWC21 citing virus concerns

Cisco has joined the growing exodus of big vendors from this year's Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, citing concern about the coronavirus pandemic in a statement provided directly to Light Reading.

It is the latest in a string of Tier 1 equipment vendors that have decided to abandon the physical stalls they previously booked and participate in the trade show online.

Postponed to June from its usual slot in late February, MWC21 was aiming for between 40,000 and 50,000 visitors, down from the usual figure of more than 100,000, before the spate of withdrawals.

Figure 1: MWC normally attracts more than 100,000 visitors.MWC normally attracts more than 100,000 visitors.

Ericsson and Nokia, Europe's largest suppliers of mobile network equipment and two of the show's biggest exhibitors in normal years, confirmed their non-attendance last week, while Sony and InterDigital have also said they will not be travelling.

Other exhibitors that have reportedly withdrawn from the physical event include Internet giant Facebook and software company Oracle.

"We have made the decision to withdraw from participating in person at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona due to ongoing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic," said a Cisco spokesperson by email. "While we are extremely disappointed that we cannot participate in person with this event as planned, we believe this is the right decision given the current circumstances."

The UK's BT appears to be the only Tier 1 service provider to have said it will not send delegates to Barcelona, although several other big operators have declined to make a firm commitment at this stage.

CompanyTypeHeadquarters locationWithdrawal statusBTOperatorUKConfirmedCiscoEquipment vendorUSAConfirmedEricssonEquipment vendorSwedenConfirmedFacebookInternetUSAReportedInterDigitalResearch companyUSAConfirmedNokiaEquipment vendorFinlandConfirmedOracleSoftware vendorUSAReportedSonyElectronicsJapanConfirmedSource: companies, news reports, Light Reading.

Last year's MWC was eventually cancelled when big service providers began to pull out, but the GSM Association, the show's organizer, looks more determined to press on this year after investing in health-and-safety facilities to minimize any risks.

Cancellation for a second year in a row would deal a blow to an organization that is heavily reliant on MWC Barcelona for its revenues. Last year's upset forced the GSMA to cut headcount by at least a fifth.

But the event will struggle to attract the 40,000 attendees the GSMA was previously expecting. Even if some big companies had not withdrawn, travel to Spain from countries including the US and the UK may be very difficult because of government restrictions, the GSMA has acknowledged.

Public cloud makeover

In the meantime, it has made some noise about a deal under which Ericsson's Hall 2 facility has been taken over by Danielle Royston, a consultant who under her TelcoDR brand plans to convert the enormous booth into a showcase for the public cloud.

Royston, who says she paid "millions of dollars" for the real estate Ericsson previously bought, is inviting public cloud software companies to show off their products at her booth and says she has already covered the whole fee to the GSMA, thanks to private equity support.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Royston said she hoped to raise at least $1 billion from her backers to fund a takeover of telco software companies and reposition them for the public cloud. Details were not disclosed.

She was previously the CEO of a software company called Optiva but left after clashing with its board over her salary and its transition to the public cloud, which Royston had tried to speed up. "I am a public cloud evangelist, and on a mission to accelerate adoption of the public cloud," she told reporters.

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Light Reading. One smaller exhibitor, speaking to Light Reading on condition of anonymity, expressed concern about attending this year's event in person given the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic. It claimed to have been told by the GSMA that refunds will not be offered to companies that decide not to participate in the physical event. Light Reading approached the GSMA outside normal working hours for a comment but had not heard back at the time of publication. "The terms and conditions for our participation in trade shows and events is not subject to public disclosure," said an Ericsson spokesperson when asked if the company would receive a refund after its own withdrawal. Related posts:BT becomes first big telco to pull out of MWC21One consultant's plan to fill Ericsson's stand and save MWC21Nokia joins Ericsson in bailing on MWC, with Oracle, Sony also reportedly outEricsson pulls the plug on MWC Barcelona againMWC 2021 is a go, but can it attract 50K visitors?— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Iain Morris

International Editor

Iain Morris joined Light Reading as News Editor at the start of 2015 -- and we mean, right at the start. His friends and family were still singing Auld Lang Syne as Iain started sourcing New Year's Eve UK mobile network congestion statistics. Prior to boosting Light Reading's UK-based editorial team numbers (he is based in London, south of the river), Iain was a successful freelance writer and editor who had been covering the telecoms sector for the past 15 years. His work has appeared in publications including The Economist (classy!) and The Observer, besides a variety of trade and business journals. He was previously the lead telecoms analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, and before that worked as a features editor at Telecommunications magazine. Iain started out in telecoms as an editor at consulting and market-research company Analysys (now Analysys Mason).

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