Samsung to attend MWC virtually, but the show will still go on in person in Barcelona

Ericsson signage on a building

Ericsson has constantly had one of many greatest cubicles at MWC in Barcelona. 

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Samsung has mentioned that it’s going to solely be attending Cellular World Congress remotely this 12 months, opting to not have a bodily presence at Europe’s flagship cell present, which is ready to happen in June. The GSMA, which runs the occasion, is urgent forward with plans for an in-person convention this summer time because the variety of COVID instances throughout Spain, the place the present is held, proceed to say no and restrictions are more and more lifted.

“The well being and security of our workers, companions and clients is our primary precedence, so we’ve got made the choice to withdraw from exhibiting in-person at this 12 months’s Cellular World Congress,” Samsung told Reuters in an emailed assertion on Tuesday.

Regardless of the GSMA’s optimism, a lot of huge tech corporations introduced beginning in March that they will not be attending the present in Barcelona in particular person this 12 months. Google, which tends to have a big presence by way of its Android enterprise, was the newest main exhibitor to bow out of the in-person portion of MWC. It joined Ericsson, Sony, Nokia and Fb, which had been among the many first to say they would not be heading to Barcelona. 

“Following our present COVID-19 journey restrictions and protocols, Google has made the choice to not exhibit at Cellular World Congress this 12 months,” the corporate mentioned in an announcement. It added that it’s going to nonetheless take part nearly.

Google’s departure from the in-person part of MWC was a notable blow to the organizers. Google tends to take over a major space within the Fira conference heart, selling Android and sending attendees on hunts for pins and different Android-branded swag. Android powers the vast majority of the world’s telephones, and it is an vital part of the cell present. Whereas Google is the most recent firm to sit down out the Barcelona in-person present, it is doubtless not going to be the final. 

MWC brings collectively corporations from internationally, with many utilizing the weeklong commerce present in Barcelona because the place to introduce their latest smartphones and speak up developments in 5G and different wi-fi expertise. MWC is essential to the cell industry for 2 huge causes: It is the place distributors get consideration for his or her latest units and it is the place corporations hammer out offers behind the scenes. The present usually takes place in late February and early March, however GSMA delayed this 12 months’s convention to June due to COVID-19.

As of Could 11, COVID-19 has infected over 159 million people and killed 3.3 million.

The primary telephone maker to state publicly that it does not plan to attend the present was Sony Cellular, which confirmed in mid-March that it will haven’t any bodily presence at this 12 months’s occasion.

“Sony Cellular has taken the choice that it’s going to not be collaborating in MWC 2021,” mentioned a spokesman for the corporate in an announcement. “Because the world more and more shifts in direction of digital and on-line alternatives to forestall the unfold of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Sony Cellular will talk in methods that may ship our thrilling product information to a wider viewers.”

Nokia additionally mentioned that very same day that it would not attend the present, however that it will as a substitute take part within the occasion nearly. “The well being of our workers, clients and companions is of paramount significance to us,” firm mentioned in an announcement. “Given the worldwide nature of the occasion and with the worldwide vaccine roll out nonetheless in its early phases, we’ve got made the thought of resolution to as a substitute take part in solely the digital occasion.”

They’re joined by Ericsson, which was the primary firm to substantiate that it would not be in attendance this 12 months. The Swedish telecom networking big, constantly one of many greatest exhibitors on the world’s largest cell present, on March eight mentioned it would not attend MWC 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“In view of the persevering with impacts from Covid-19 and our main consideration in direction of our individuals, their well being and well-being, we’ve got determined to not take part at MWC 2021,” Ericsson mentioned in an announcement. “The choice, while regrettable, displays our precautionary strategy to managing the pandemic from a individuals and journey perspective while vaccination packages are rolled out globally.”

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The GSMA mentioned in its personal assertion offered to Cellular World Stay that it “respects” Ericsson’s decision to withdraw from the show and famous that it plans to create a digital platform to assist corporations and journalists unable to attend in particular person. 

Ericsson did not say whether or not it would take part in MWC nearly.

Fb, one other common attendee, may even skip this 12 months’s present, as a result of a coverage it put in place final 12 months through which the corporate mentioned it would not attend in-person occasions by way of the top of June 2021 because of the pandemic. 

In a traditional 12 months, about 100,000 individuals attend the weeklong convention. MWC expects as much as 50,000 individuals in particular person this 12 months. 

“We admire that it’s going to not be potential for everybody to attend MWC Barcelona 2021,” GSMA mentioned. “This is the reason we’ve got developed an industry-leading digital occasion platform that may guarantee everybody can benefit from the distinctive MWC expertise.”

Assembly in particular person

MWC was one of many first main international occasions to get canceled final 12 months because the novel coronavirus turned a full-blown pandemic. A couple of week earlier than journalists and corporations descended on Barcelona in February 2020, the present’s organizers known as off the confab. That was largely as a result of many huge corporations mentioned they would not attend.  Ericsson was one of many first corporations pull out of MWC 2020

On the time, internet hosting a digital present was a novelty. MWC ended up being canceled completely, and cell corporations had to determine their very own launch occasions. Since then, CES, Apple occasions and varied different tech product launches have taken place completely on-line. Samsung final month held its fourth digital Unpacked occasion of the pandemic

However different conferences have moved again to in-person, if scaled-down, occasions. IFA in September included an on-site part in Berlin, with about 5,000 attendees versus its regular 200,000. And in February the GSMA held its MWC Shanghai with about 17,000 attendees. There have been no confirmed instances of COVID-19 on web site, the group informed Bloomberg. Nonetheless, MWC in Barcelona might draw many extra attendees from extra areas of the world, growing the chance of an infection on the similar time vaccines are being rolled out. 

Ericsson’s announcement got here solely hours after the GSMA outlined its health and safety precautions for the in-person convention at Barcelona’s Fira Gran By way of.

Attendees should present unfavourable COVID-19 checks earlier than being allowed to board planes to Spain, they usually’ll have to supply a unfavourable speedy check on web site and get their temperatures checked to entry the MWC venue. Attendees should be retested each 72 hours, and the My MWC app will notify them of an upcoming expiration. They’re going to additionally should social distance, put on masks and full each day well being questionnaires within the convention’s app. 

Contained in the venue, GSMA will implement one-way visitors stream at entrances and exits and arrange a “touchless” atmosphere the place badges are digitized. The Fira has elevated sanitation and has arrange a brand new recent air air flow system to enhance airflow. It additionally could have extra medical workers on web site.

Many different main exhibitors have mentioned they’re monitoring the state of affairs. AT&T, one of many greatest carriers within the US, mentioned in mid-March that it nonetheless plans to attend in particular person, although it is carefully watching an infection charges and the vaccine rollout. 

Qualcomm, the world’s greatest 5G chipmaker, mentioned in an announcement that whereas its incoming CEO, Cristiano Amon, is slated to ship a keynote handle at MWC, it “will proceed to watch the state of affairs and work with the GSMA within the run as much as the occasion.” Samsung is also reviewing choices concerning on-site participation. 

CNET’s Katie Collins, Eli Blumenthal and Richard Nieva contributed to this report.