Nokia, VEON and BT quit MWC, odds shorten on event's cancellation

If it goes ahead, this year's MWC will now lack two of the world's three biggest mobile equipment vendors, while another major operator also decides not to attend.

Iain Morris, International Editor

February 12, 2020

11 Min Read
Nokia, VEON and BT quit MWC, odds shorten on event's cancellation

The odds have shortened on a cancellation of this year's Mobile World Congress after influential vendor Nokia and major network operators VEON and BT today announced their withdrawal from the event because of mounting concern about the spread of the coronavirus disease, joining numerous other high-profile exhibitors and attendees in pulling out.

Nokia's cancellation leaves MWC without one of its very largest exhibitors and – following Ericsson's earlier withdrawal – means the show will be missing two of the "big three" mobile kit vendors, with only China's Huawei still planning to attend.

The Finnish company's decision, announced a week and a half before the event is due to begin, will increase the pressure on the GSM Association, the event organizer, to cancel this year's show. The GSMA, which had not responded to a request for comment on Nokia's decision at the time of publication, is reportedly set to hold a board-level meeting on Friday at which a final decision will be made on whether to cancel or postpone this year's event.

Any reluctance to call off the show would be understandable: Attracting 109,000 attendees last year, MWC Barcelona is the GSMA's biggest individual source of income and its cancellation would upset many of the exhibitors that still plan to attend, prompting demands for refunds and compensation.




A10 Networks

Withdrawal confirmed

The network security vendor emailed Light Reading to confirm that it is pulling out of MWC Barcelona.


Withdrawal confirmed

The network performance assurance vendor announced its withdrawal from MWC Barcelona via press release on February 10.


Withdrawal confirmed

Broadband network equipment maker said: "ADTRAN announced its decision to withdraw from MWC due to concerns regarding the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The decision was not made lightly and ADTRAN looks forward to rejoining the MWC community in 2021."


Withdrawal confirmed

Web giant said it would no longer exhibit at or participate in MWC because of the value it placed "on the wellbeing and safety of our employees, customers, partners, and press and analyst community."


Withdrawal confirmed

OSS/BSS player withdrew saying: "In the face of the public health concern from the novel coronavirus, we are placing the highest priority on protecting the health of our employees, customers and partners."


Withdrawal confirmed

US telecom giant said it had decided not to participate after careful discussions. "Unfortunately, the most responsible decision is to withdraw our participation from the event to safeguard our employees and customers," it said.


Withdrawal confirmed

UK telecom incumbent issued a statement on February 12 saying it would not be attending MWC.


Withdrawal confirmed

Optical equipment maker said it was canceling all plans to participate in MWC due to growing concerns about coronavirus.


Withdrawal confirmed

US equipment maker said on February 11 that it had made the difficult decision to withdraw from MWC due to concern about coronavirus.


Withdrawal confirmed

The network infrastructure company alluded in its statement to the "business impact that would result if a quarantine were ordered." It has canceled its attendance and said it will explore virtual trade show and meeting options instead.

Dali Wireless

Withdrawal confirmed

The wireless fronthaul vendor said, in a statement, that because "there is still much unknown regarding the 2019-nCoV, Dali does not feel comfortable sending its employees to a widely attended international event."

Dell'Oro Group

Withdrawal confirmed

Dell'Oro VP Stefan Pongratz confirmed via a comment on Twitter that the analyst house would not be attending MWC Barcelona.

Deutsche Telekom

Withdrawal confirmed

German operator pulls out on afternoon of February 12 citing health concerns for employees and partners.


Withdrawal confirmed

One of the event's largest exhibitors was also one of the first to withdraw, saying it could not ensure the health and safety of employees and customers.


Withdrawal confirmed

Social media giant withdrew on February 11, stating: "Out of an abundance of caution, Facebook employees won't be attending this year's Mobile World Congress due to the evolving public health risks related to coronavirus."

F5 Networks

Withdrawal confirmed

A company spokesperson confirmed to Light Reading on February 10 that the applications infrastructure company will not be on site at MWC Barcelona.


Withdrawal confirmed

Optical equipment maker said it would no longer attend in "response to the ongoing threat of the novel coronavirus."


Withdrawal reported

Chipmaker reported by industry sources to have pulled out entirely because of concern about the spread of coronavirus.


Withdrawal confirmed

The company announced late Monday that it won't be at MWC Barcelona, adding that "nothing is more important to us than the health and welfare of our employees."

Intracom Telecom

Withdrawal confirmed

Backhaul specialist pulled out for health reasons, stating: "Our employees, partners and customers are of paramount importance and they are always our first priority no matter what."

Light Reading

Withdrawal confirmed

Light Reading will not be sending its editorial staff to MWC Barcelona. We'll be monitoring MWC-related developments remotely and covering the industry's most interesting people, capital and technology news.


Withdrawal confirmed

South Korean consumer electronics firm was the first big vendor to back out last week.


Withdrawal confirmed

The computer security firm said: "Due to our continued concerns about novel coronavirus, McAfee has decided to withdraw from exhibiting and participating in Mobile World Congress 2020."


Withdrawal reported

Mobile SoC giant has pulled out to preserve the health and safety of its staff.


Withdrawal confirmed

Finnish equipment giant quit on February 12 after carrying out a risk assessment and, like Ericsson, says it will use demos at smaller events closer to its customers.


Exhibition withdrawal confirmed

Japanese operator has canceled its exhibition but not said if this means no staff will be attending the event.


Withdrawal confirmed

Chipmaker withdrew over the weekend, saying the safety of staff, partners and customers was its paramount concern.

Panorama Software

Withdrawal reported

Reported by The Mobile Network to have said it will not be exhibiting at or participating in this year's show because of virus concerns.


Withdrawal confirmed

Broadband wireless equipment specialist has canceled its participation, citing the health and safety of staff.


Withdrawal confirmed

Japanese ecommerce company quit MWC citing health and safety concerns surrounding the novel coronavirrus.


Withdrawal confirmed

Japanese electronics giant said safety and well-being were its priorities as it canceled its exhibition and participation.


Withdrawal confirmed

Test company Spirent announced on February 11 that it had made the decision not to participate in this year's MWC out of concern about coronavirus risks.


Withdrawal confirmed

US operator due to merge with T-Mobile said in a statement: "Our team will not be attending MWC due to concerns around the novel coronavirus."


Withdrawal confirmed

Emerging-markets operator, with 212 million customers worldwide, confirmed its withdrawal to Light Reading on February 12.

Viavi Solutions

Withdrawal confirmed

A smaller vendor at the show, Viavi said it would have sent 50 people until it decided the risks were too great.


Withdrawal confirmed

UK-based operator pulls out on afternoon of February 12 citing health concerns for employees, customers and partners.

But as leading exhibitors and attendees back out, MWC is losing much of its attraction as a place to do business and gather information about the latest technology and application developments. Both Ericsson and Nokia now intend to show off their products, and discuss their plans, at smaller events much closer to customers.

In its published statement, Nokia said: "We have taken the necessary time to evaluate a fast-moving situation, engage with the GSMA and other stakeholders, regularly consult external experts and authorities, and plan to manage risks based on a wide range of scenarios. The conclusion of that process is that we believe the prudent decision is to cancel our participation at Mobile World Congress."

Nokia's announcement came as Light Reading learned that VEON, one of the world's largest operators by subscriber numbers (more than 212 million), had also decided to withdraw from MWC. Other major service providers to have communicated their non-attendance include US operators AT&T and Sprint and Japan's NTT DoCoMo and Rakuten.

Another is the UK's BT, which provides mobile services mainly under the EE brand and confirmed its withdrawal in a brief statement. "Unfortunately, the most responsible decision is to withdraw our participation from the event to safeguard our employees and customers," it said.

Besides Ericsson and Nokia, major vendors that have pulled out now include Amdocs, Ciena, Cisco, CommScope, Intel, LG, Nvidia and Sony.

For all the latest news from the wireless networking and services sector, check out our dedicated Mobile content channel here on Light Reading.

The GSMA has not provided an update on its plans or made a statement on exhibitor withdrawals since February 9, when it announced strict new measures designed to address concern about coronavirus, a respiratory disease the World Health Organization has now dubbed COVID-19.

Under those measures, visitors who have spent time in China during the two weeks leading up to the event will be denied entry, as will anyone traveling from Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Originating and at its worst in China, COVID-19 has now infected about 45,000 people and claimed more than 1,000 lives, according to the latest mainstream press reports.

The GSMA currently plans to install additional hygiene facilities at its show and has been advising attendees not to shake hands as a precautionary measure.

Related posts:

— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Iain Morris

International Editor, Light Reading

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).

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like