Ericsson's MWC Decision Will Likely Start Domino Effect

Watch out for the #dominoeffect appearing in your Twitter feeds as the mobile industry's CMOs take stock of Ericsson's decision to withdraw from this year's Mobile World Congress and decide whether to follow suit.

Unfortunately for the GSMA, the industry body that organizes and runs what is the year's most important annual industry event, the likelihood is that multiple other companies will also decide to skip this year's Barcelona gathering.

That's because the industry's CMOs are all talking to each other, asking what the others think -- wondering whether going is too risky for their teams and what the fallout would be if they didn't go, from a business and PR perspective.

Ericsson's decision, which, given where the industry is in terms of 5G land grab, is bold (but totally understandable and laudable), will influence many decisions, I believe.

I expect many other companies will now decide not to attend: Now that Ericsson has stated that the "health and safety of our employees, customers and other stakeholders are our highest priority," which company is going to risk looking like they don't share that view? If a company continues to say "We are still going to MWC," what does that say about it as an employer?

That is a major dilemma and a horrible one for companies to now face. Add to that, though, that there are already rumblings that many mobile operator teams from the Americas have decided not to travel and that starts to make MWC look less appealing simply from a business development perspective, which is basically what the show is about.

For many companies too, this is a major business concern in terms of its costs. Every company weighs up the return on investment (ROI) case for MWC and for many companies it eats up a significant chunk of their annual marketing budget. If they decide to pull out, will they get anything back from their insurers? Or is it money they will never see again?

Might the GSMA (a not-for-profit organization) transfer this year's MWC bookings to next year and take the hit on behalf of the industry?

It's a major dilemma for the GSMA and every company involved with this event. The show will survive, as will the industry. Let's hope the financial impact of any cancellations or loss of business doesn't adversely impact any company too badly.

The GSMA says it regrets Ericsson's decision not to attend but says it's "of great importance to the GSMA to continue to convene the industry at this critical time where connectivity is on the cusp of a new industrial revolution." The show goes on.

Whatever happens, the main thing, important above all else, is that this industry (and everyone else, of course!) stays healthy. That's the number one consideration. Ericsson has made the right decision: Nothing is more important than people's health, especially not a business meeting.

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

sarcher60555 2/13/2020 | 9:48:48 AM
RIP GSMA This will be a huge loss to recover from.
TelcoInvestor 2/8/2020 | 1:47:49 PM
Re: The age of evidence-based decisions seems to be over Hi C,

You argue for evidence-based decisions, but your reasoning shows a total lack of evidence. Comparing 19-nCoV with Influenza and claiming that 19-nCoV has a mortality rate of 2% is just pure speculation and hearsay on your part. If you have a reference to a large scale scientific study that support your arguments, please share.

The known facts include:
  • Influenzavirus belong to the family of Orthomyxoviridae, 19-nCoV belong to the family of Coronavirus (same as SARS and MERS). Not comparable.
  • Our immune system recognize the influenzavirus, vaccines exist, persons who are susceptible to fatal consequences due to influenza are in most cases aware of this and can take their own decision on wether to attend MWC or not, including consulting their doctor.
  • 19-nCoV is (as the name suggests) a novel virus, it's characteristics such as basic reproductive rate (R0), Case Fatality Ratio, Mortality Ratio, other later consequences after having recovered are all unknown. We also don't know how the virus may mutate in case of a prolonged spread over the world. No vaccine exist. Those circumstances are what virologists, ECDC, WHO, CDC et al all over the world are very worried about.
  • The numbers reported from China are not verified, and one aspect not considered is how deaths are reported. In China (according to a family relative who works as a doctor in China), if a patient have a health condition, let us assume a heart disease, and the patient dies of heart failure due to worsened condition from e.g. influenza, the death reason will be reported as heart failure (not influenza). In many other countries (incl Europe and US), the death reason will be reported as influenza. Using the Chinese numbers to calculate the mortality rate is hence very uncertain, more evidence is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
  • If you think 19-nCoV is similar to influenza, why has China locked down Wuhan and imposed heavy restrictions in many other cities?

Given this situation, LG, Ericsson and now also NVIDIA are taking fact based decisions with the health and safety of their employees and customers as their highest priority. Which is applaudable.

GSMA and other companies who continue to pretend the situation is under control, are in my view irresponsible. Hand sanitizers and 'no handshake policy' does not provide any guarantees at all, and are in fact quite ridicilous measures. Please think of the staff in the booths who are forced by their employers to closely interact with thousands of visitors during MWC. What responsibility will GSMA and participating companies take if anyone contracts 19-nCoV, and face serious consequences or even dies?


Health and safety must always have higher priority than business development and marketing. With all the unknowns, the most reponsible decision would be to cancel MWC 2020.




cross 2/7/2020 | 12:17:10 PM
The age of evidence-based decisions seems to be over Hi Ray, interesting analysis. 

Influenza - the common flu - has a lethality rate of 2 % as well, and has always struck the Northern hemisphere (including MWC) in springtimes.  Up to 550 people die each year from Influenza in Spain alone.  CDC estimated that 80,000 died in the U.S. in the flu season of 2017/2018.

In past MWC events, we all witnessed many people coughing, some coming with fever and suppressing it with medication due to the importance of the event -- highly contagious and dangerous -- but nobody cared. Because this is part of life: We get infected by diseases. And then almost all of us  overcome these diseases because our bodies cope with them.  At least I have not heard about any colleague dying from an infection after having visited MWC in the past. Those that die from respiratory infections usually have had other sicknesses before, or are either very old or very young (not the typical folks going to MWC anyway). 

I am not trying to trivialize Coronavirus - I am just wondering why there is so much irrationality even among well educated telecom engineers when it comes to Coronavirus. The anxiety spread by the media and amplified by social media makes it seemingly difficult even for large organizations to take rational decisions.  (BTW, even on LR, the "Ericsson cancels" article gets more prominent coverage than the "xyz participates" articles, and I have not seen any analysis on the actual scientific basis of infections - which could e.g. quote the WHO statistics and recommendations. But that is boring and does not get clicks.)

Now, one could argue the big difference between Influenza and Coronavirus is that there is a vaccine against Influenza. But most people do not even bother getting a flu shot, which shows the whole irrationality of the argument. Could you please check the news archives if any vendor attending MWC has warned of 2 % Influenza death rate in past years, and has even taken any measures to protect their employees or customers?

So the question is -- will Ericsson ever return to MWC in future years, now that they have put the bar so high for healthcare at big events? Will they enforce all their employees (and customers wanting to approach their booth) to take flu shots before meetings, and quarantine each employee after returning from travel in Europe in the winter due to the health risks?

It seems we are approaching an era where scientific evidence does not seem to count anymore.

ASX4000 2/7/2020 | 9:20:17 AM
RESPECT! That's a really bold decision if right or wrong you only know afterward. But it takes courage to make it.
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