Ericsson, a Swedish telecom company, announced today that it will no longer attend Mobile World Congress, a major mobile electronics conference, over coronavirus concerns. This makes the company the third exhibitor to drop out of the show, following LG and ZTE. The company says it’ll instead focus its efforts on local demos of new technology because it doesn’t want to put its employees in danger of catching the virus.
“Ericsson appreciates that GSMA have done everything they can to control the risk,” a press release states. “However, as one of the largest exhibitors, Ericsson has thousands of visitors in its hall each day and even if the risk is low, the company cannot guarantee the health and safety of its employees and visitors.”
GSM Association, the organization that puts on the show, said in a statement that it “respects” Ericsson’s decision and is encouraged that the company committed to the 2021 show. It also reemphasized that the show will go on at the end of the month, from February 24th to the 27th. It’s continuing to “monitor and assess” the virus situation to make appropriate changes. The group previously said it would increase medical support and disinfection measures on site and communicate best practices to attendees. Speakers will be subject to a new microphone changing protocol, and a “no-handshake policy” is also being advised.
Meanwhile, Xiaomi, Vivo, and Honor all previously told The Verge that they plan to attend, as does Qualcomm, Lenovo, and Motorola. The Ericsson decision comes at a time when more people are looking to the company for business. US Attorney General William Barr suggested this week that the US government might purchase a stake in Ericsson or Finland-based Nokia in an effort to thwart China-based company Huawei’s telecom ambitions. The US intelligence industry considers Huawei a national security threat because of its alleged ties to the Chinese government, the existence of which Huawei denies. Barr and the government believe investing in either of the European telecoms would give the US a leg up on 5G technology and ensure that Huawei doesn’t dominate the industry.
For its part, GSMA represents more than 1,200 companies across the mobile ecosystem, and MWC is always a chance for thousands to gather for partnerships, deals, and product launches in front of the global press. With more people taking an interest in Ericsson, it likely would have even more attention at the show this year, which it’s giving up in favor of protecting its employees.