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Google latest to pull out of attending Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress in person

Latest: Coronavirus in Spain figures (12 Apr)

Google is the latest corporation to announce that it will not be attending the 2021 Mobile World Congress (MWC), due to take place in Barcelona from 28 June to 1 July, as event organisers increasingly move more activities online.

This follows similar announcements last month from a host of big tech firms including BT, Facebook, Sony, Nokia and Ericsson. All had cited concerns about the on-going pandemic situation and confirmed that they would not be attending the conference in person.

Google were due to be the biggest firm to attend the event, and their announcement will come as a blow to the organisers, who are having to adjust plans to move more of the event online.

A Google representative told The Verge, a specialist tech publication, that the company, ‘has made the decision to not exhibit at Mobile Congress this year. We will continue to collaborate closely with GSMA and support our partners through virtual opportunities. We look forward to this year’s activities and seeing you in Barcelona in 2022.’

The world’s biggest mobile trade show had previously been postponed from March and moved to the revised summer dates.

Last year’s conference was cancelled at short notice in February, as the pandemic was beginning to spread into Europe and international travel began to shut down.

An image of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona in 2014. (Vicente Zambrano González)

In March, GSMA, the organisers of the event, had confirmed their intentions for the fair to go ahead, making predictions of 50,000 people attending. This is half the normal level of attendance achieved before the pandemic.

Plans for the event in the summer include operating three rapid Covid-19 test points at the entrances to the congress hall. Attendees will also have to present a negative PCR test performed no longer than 72 hours prior to arriving and there will be 13,000 hand gel dispensers on site.

Speaking about the event last month, GSMA’s CEO, John Hoffman, had said that the event ‘can go ahead safely, in person, with a digital online component for those unable to attend. It will remain the unique, unmissable experience that has made it the world’s most important mobile event’.

The revised plans for the scaled down ‘in-person’ event will no doubt impact on the city of Barcelona’s economy, which has previously benefitted from an injection of 500m euros from hosting the conference.

In 2019, when the event was last staged, up to 2,400 exhibitors, 8,000 CEOs and 59% of the industries’ most important decision makers gathered in the city.

The 2021 event is also due to be the first time that the world’s most influential startup event, 4YFN, is to be included within the MWC.

In the weeks ahead, it is expected that the event’s plans will continue to evolve to ensure that a combination of in person and virtual activities allow the conference to go ahead.

However, it will be a disappointment to many that the big names will not personally be present in Barcelona to exhibit or network this year.

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