As the world’s biggest mobile tech event draws nearer, will these companies be the first of many to change their plans?
At the end of last month, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency. With simple person-to-person transmission and an official death toll almost reaching 500, fears about the spread of the disease have seen governments close international borders and enforce lengthy quarantine periods.
Now, MWC, which brings together over 100,000 people from all over the world, is beginning to feel the impact of these health concerns, with ZTE cancelling its press conference.
"We tend to be an overly courteous company, and simply don’t want to make people uncomfortable," announced a ZTE spokesperson, who also noted visa delays and travel issues played in a role in their decision to cancel their press event.
Nonetheless, ZTE are keen to stress that they will still have plenty to offer from their exhibitors booth: "A wide variety of new 5G devices will be demonstrated at the ZTE booth during MWC 2020 as planned.”
Around 30% of attendees at MWC are Chinese and it is Chinese companies that are facing the brunt of the logistical issues created by the health crisis. Oppo and Xiaomi have reportedly cancelled tours for Chinese media, and many companies, including Huawei and ZTE, are having to navigate strict travel restrictions in order to attend.
Not long after ZTE’s statement, LG announced that they would be skipping MWC completely.
“This decision will prevent needlessly exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel, which most health experts have advised,” said a company statement.
LG have announced that they will be holding separate events in the near future to announce this year’s batch of mobile products.
These announcements coincide with the GSMA releasing a second statement on the coronavirus, reaffirming that the event will go ahead with a host of additional health precautions in place to ensure attendee safety. In the statement they urged attendees to adopt a ‘no handshake policy’ to improve hygiene.
The relationship between the spread of coronavirus and 5G is a strange one. Wuhan, where the disease outbreak seemingly originated, was one of the first places in China to launch 5G, leading some conspiracy theorists to declare a bizarre connection between the next generation technology and the disease.
While this claim seems spurious at best, being completely dismissed by the medical community, the practical effect that the disease could have on the Chinese government’s 5G plans are far more serious. Many companies are telling their employees to stay at home, which could have a significant impact to labour intensive services like infrastructure deployment.
With the global health situation changing so rapidly, the question is now whether more companies will follow the lead of ZTE and LG in dramatically altering their MWC plans.
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