Nvidia is the First U.S. Company to Pull Out of Mobile World Congress Over Coronavirus Risks

Nvidia became the first U.S. company to withdraw from the 2020 Mobile World Congress over coronavirus concerns.
Nvidia became the first U.S. company to withdraw from the 2020 Mobile World Congress over coronavirus concerns.
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

The Mobile World Congress (MWC), the wireless industry’s premiere event of the year, has lost its first U.S. attendee. Nvidia has announced that it will not attend MWC in Barcelona, Spain due to concerns over coronavirus, making it the fourth exhibitor to withdraw or scale back its participation in the event.

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Nvidia joins exhibitors Ericsson and LG, which both announced this past week that they were not going to MWC. Chinese phone and telecommunications giant ZTE announced that it was cancelling its press conference to avoid making people feel uncomfortable, although it will maintain its booth at the show and demo new 5G devices there.

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ZTE isn’t the only Chinese exhibitor taking special measures for the show. Wired reports that Huawei is quarantining its executives, presenters and service staff from China outside of the country for at least 14 days, which experts believe to be the incubation period for the virus, before MWC.

Nvidia’s decision is a blow to MWC. According to the Verge, the company was a major sponsor and had planned to host 10 sessions and roundtables on artificial intelligence. It also planned to host an “AI Edge Innovation Center.”

“Given public health risks around the coronavirus, ensuring the safety of our colleagues, partners and customers is our highest concern,” Nvidia wrote in a blog post. “We’ve been looking forward to sharing our work in AI, 5G and vRAN with the industry. We regret not attending, but believe this is the right decision.”

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As noted by the Verge, it’s not clear whether the Nvidia sessions will be cancelled. Neither the company nor GSMA, MWC’s organizing body, elaborated on that point in their statements.

In a statement released on Sunday, GSMA acknowledged that coronavirus has created disruption for its exhibitors and attendees. Nonetheless, GSMA said that the conference would still be held in Barcelona from February 24-27 as planned. The organizer said that while it had lost some large exhibitors, it still had more 2,800 exhibitors attending the conference.

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However, GSMA also said that other exhibitors are “still contemplating next steps.”

GSMA announced additional security measures in its Sunday update. The organizing body said that all travellers from China’s Hubei province, the center of the outbreak, would not be allowed into the event. Travellers from China will also need to demonstrate proof, such as a passport stamp or health certificate, that they have been outside of China for 14 days before the event.

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Finally, GSMA will implement a temperature screening and a self-certification system, which requires attendees to self-certify that they have not been in contact with anyone infected.

The coronavirus outbreak recently surpassed the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) death toll, which infected 8,098 people worldwide and killed 774 nearly two decades ago. Coronavirus has been compared to SARS for various reasons, including the fact that both originated in China and are caused by a similar virus.

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As of Sunday, there were 37,558 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide. The World Health Organization states that 812 people have died from the disease in China. One person has died outside of China.

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DISCUSSION

Honestly, it feels like the dumbest reason, and I feel like companies will abuse the hell out of the situation to stop things they needed reasons to stop.