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New world. The mobile phone industry shaken by the cancellation of the MWC fair

Visitors go to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (Spain) on February 25, 2019. Illustrative image. (JOSEP LAGO / AFP)

The decision fell on Wednesday evening after several weeks of suspense: the Mobile World Congress (MWC), which was to take place from February 24 in Barcelona, ​​will not take place due to the epidemic of coronavirus Covid-19. It must be said that the main exhibitors canceled at the chain. First, the South Korean LG, then Amazon; Facebook, Intel, Deutsche Telekom, Sony, Nokia, etc. Faced with the risk of a deserted lounge, the organizers preferred to cancel everything.

Barcelona is not in China, of course, but many exhibitors and visitors are Chinese or travel to China all year round. The organizers first promised improved hygiene conditions (ban on anyone who went to China less than 15 days before, wearing a mandatory mask, handshakes not recommended). Despite this, companies preferred to withdraw as a precaution for their employees. Which means, moreover, to the head of public health in Catalonia that it is above all a “epidemic of fear “. As a reminder, with the exception of two cases in the Balearic Islands, no patient with the virus has been detected in Spain.

The MWC is 2,000 exhibitors from 200 countries and 110,000 visitors. Suffice to say that this represents a considerable economic windfall for the Catalan capital. Each year, hotels, restaurants and taxis fill up. We are talking about more than 450 million euros in economic spinoffs. It is also a blow for the GSM Association which organizes the show, currently chaired by the French Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange. Now is the time for insurance. But for these to come into play, Catalonia would have to be declared as a health emergency, which is not currently the case.

The cancellation of the WMC will shake up the calendars. This year, there was a lot of talk about 5G and foldable screens. Samsung got ahead of the game by setting its event apart on Tuesday. Huawei was to present its Mate X model, the Chinese has not canceled its visit to the MWC and could make its presentation in a hotel in Barcelona.

AT other than that, there is bound to be an impact on the whole industry. The difficulties should be significant for the smaller brands, for which the MWC is a really important meeting because it makes it possible to conclude contracts.

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