Updated Mar 9, 2021 - Technology

Mobile World Congress to be in Spain this summer — without Ericsson

a gsma barcelona sign

Photo: Xavier Bonilla/NurPhoto via Getty Images

GSMA, the trade group that puts on Mobile World Congress, said Monday the event will take place in person in Barcelona in June, while also announcing a series of new procedures it hopes will assuage health concerns. However, key player Ericsson said Tuesday that it won't be taking part.

Why it matters: The event is the biggest wireless industry trade show and a key source of funds for the GSMA. However, many are skeptical of holding an event with tens of thousands of people, many of whom won't have yet been vaccinated.

Driving the news: GSMA has already pushed the event from February to June, and on Monday it announced details of a plan that calls for attendees to be tested for COVID-19, but doesn't require them to have been vaccinated.

Details... Under the plan:

  • Attendees will have to test negative within 72 hours of the show and be tested again every 72 hours.
  • The venue will have more entrances and exits and improved ventilation, with temperature checks at all entrance points.

Yes, but: A much smaller gathering in California that relied on testing and similar precautions resulted in a significant outbreak infecting two dozen attendees, including organizer Peter Diamandis.

Flashback: Organizers eventually canceled last year's event, but only after many of the industry's key players had said they wouldn't attend.

What they're saying: "We believe that we can have around 45,000 to 50,000 attendees, as of today," Stephanie Lynch-Habib, the GSMA's chief marketing officer, said in an interview with Bloomberg on Monday.

  • As for Ericsson not taking part, the organization said in a statement: "“We appreciate that it will not be possible for everyone to attend MWC Barcelona 2021. This is why we have developed an industry-leading virtual event platform that will ensure everyone can enjoy the unique MWC experience. The in-person and virtual options are provided so that all friends of MWC Barcelona can attend and participate in a way that works for them.”
  • Nokia, another key mobile infrastructure provider, says it is still monitoring the situation. "We are continuing to evaluate the situation with the safety of our employees and our customers paramount in our planning," the company said in a statement to Axios.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to note that Ericsson says they won't be taking part in the June event.

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