NTT DoCoMo becomes first major telco to quit MWC exhibition

Japanese operator is the first Tier 1 operator to officially cancel its exhibition at this year's show because of concern about coronavirus.

Iain Morris, International Editor

February 10, 2020

5 Min Read
NTT DoCoMo becomes first major telco to quit MWC exhibition

Japan's NTT DoCoMo, one of the world's biggest service providers, has become the first major service provider to withdraw from this year's Mobile World Congress exhibition due to concern about the spread of coronavirus.

In a brief statement published in Japanese, the operator said it took the decision to ensure the safety of employees and other attendees. "At present, the impact of the new coronavirus is expanding, and we were planning to exhibit from February 24 (Monday) to February 27 (Thursday) 2020," said the company, according to a Google translation. "In consideration of the safety of the visitors, partner companies and staff members, we decided to cancel the exhibition."

DoCoMo is the first large operator to announce its withdrawal, although its statement holds open the possibility of attendance by employees not directly involved in its own exhibition. The Japanese firm joins a growing list of exhibitors that have pulled out for the same reason, including Japanese electronics giant Sony, Sweden's Ericsson and South Korea's LG.




Amazon Web Services

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

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

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


Exhibition withdrawal confirmed

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


Withdrawal confirmed

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


Withdrawal confirmed

Japanese electronics giant said safety and wellbeing were its priorities as it cancelled its exhibition and participation

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.


Reduced presence

Chinese networks vendor cancelled its usual press conference and imposed some restrictions on employees travelling to the show from mainland China

The GSM Association, which organizes the event, has insisted this year's show will proceed despite mounting concern about the risks of the disease, which originated in China and has so far claimed more than 900 lives and infected around 40,000 people.

Desperate to address that concern, the GSMA has now imposed tough restrictions on attendance, meaning no one who has spent time in China in the two weeks leading up to MWC will be allowed into this year's show. Organizers have also closed the doors to anyone from China's Hubei province, where the outbreak is at its worst.

MWC last year attracted around 109,000 visitors, including between 5,000 and 6,000 from China, according to the GSMA. Figures have been relatively stable in the last three years, after growing dramatically between 2009 and 2017, but look set to fall this year as companies pull out.

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

A number of other service providers are now understood to be reviewing their participation in this year's event. In a statement sent to Light Reading, France's Orange said: "Orange is still attending MWC though we are of course monitoring the situation closely. Needless to say, the health and safety of our employees is a top priority."

At the time of writing, Germany's Deutsche Telekom had not responded to a question about its participation in this year's event, while UK-based Vodafone said it would be in contact later in the week about the details of its usual press conference with Group CEO Nick Read. Turkcell, the biggest operator in Turkey, told Light Reading it was still planning to attend.

Further withdrawals would deal a huge blow to the business plans of hundreds of MWC exhibitors, as well as to the event's organizer, which generates a large chunk of its annual revenues from the Barcelona event. They would similarly hurt the local economy in Barcelona, whose hoteliers, restaurateurs and taxi drivers rely on the boost the show provides each year.

Nevertheless, if other big companies back out, pressure will increase on the GSMA to cancel this year's MWC.

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— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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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).

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