PARIS (Reuters) - Telecoms lobby GSMA will hold a board meeting on Friday to discuss the possible cancellation of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona after several big-name withdrawals because of the coronavirus outbreak, an industry source said on Tuesday.
MWC, scheduled to take place on Feb. 24-27, is the telecoms industry’s biggest annual gathering, with companies spending millions on stands and hospitality to fill their order books.
The world event was put in jeopardy after the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 1,000 people so far, mostly in mainland China, prompted U.S. technology and telecoms heavyweights such as Cisco Systems Inc, Sprint Corp and Facebook Inc to pull out.
A number of companies ranging from Japan’s NTT Docomo and Sony Corp to U.S. chipmakers Intel Corp and Nvidia had already dropped out of the four-day international telecoms conference that draws in more than 100,000 visitors.
Adding to the concerns over the impact of the epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned earlier on Tuesday of a global threat potentially worse than terrorism.
A cancellation of the event would be a big blow for Catalonia’s capital city.
The congress usually gives a $500 million lift to the local economy as delegates throng to the Fira trade fairgrounds, wine and dine contacts and criss-cross Barcelona by taxi.
GSMA, which represents 750 operators and another 350 firms in the mobile industry ranging from Germanys Deutsche Telekom to China’s Huawei, hosts the congress.
Its board is composed of 26 leaders of some of the world’s biggest telecoms groups and is currently chaired by Stéphane Richard, the CEO of Orange, France’s biggest phone company.
In the event of a full cancellation of the event, the financial liability for the organizers may depend on whether the Spanish government changes its health advice on the coronavirus.
Spain’s health minister Salvador Illa told reporters on Tuesday that there is no public health reason for the event not to be carried out.
Illa added that additional health measures related to the MWC could be announced on Wednesday. GSMA did not respond to requests seeking comment.
Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Additional reporting by Douglas Busvine, Supantha Mukherjee and Joan Faus; Editing by David Goodman and David Evans