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March 10, 2021
Nokia has joined Ericsson in withdrawing from the GSMA's MWC trade show in Barcelona, Spain, in June, and reports indicate that Oracle and Sony have also quit.
In a statement emailed directly to Light Reading, Nokia said: "After careful consideration, Nokia has decided not to have a physical presence at Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2021.
"The health of our employees, customers and partners is of paramount importance to us. Given the international nature of the event and with the global vaccine roll out still in its early phases, we have made the considered decision to instead participate in only the virtual event.
"We understand that GSMA is planning a range of online activities and we look forward to working with them to understand how we can participate."
Several other companies contacted by Light Reading Wednesday morning – including Intel, Lenovo, Qualcomm and LG – said they had not yet decided whether they will attend. Other companies including Cisco and AT&T did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The developments this week almost exactly mirror what happened to last year's MWC show in early 2020, at the beginnings of the pandemic. Ericsson was the first to announce it would not attend the event, which led a number of other major vendors to quickly follow suit. Eventually the GSMA canceled the in-person event and hosted it online.
It's unclear whether this year's show will take a similar trajectory.
Last week, a few high-profile companies including Ericsson, Huawei, Telefonica, Parallel Wireless and AT&T confirmed to Light Reading that they intended to send executives to the Barcelona show. Then, early Monday the GSMA announced details of its health and safety plans for this year's event, delayed from February to June, in a move designed to reassure prospective attendees. The association also said it is planning for a hybrid event, partly in-person and partly virtual, and that it expected up to 50,000 in-person attendees.
However, just hours after the GSMA's announcement Monday, Ericsson said it would not send any employees to the show. Now, just like last year, other vendors are joining Ericsson in bailing from the in-person event.
Iain Morris contributed to this report.
Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading
Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.
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