Ericsson pulls out of Mobile World Congress 2021 – uh-oh!

Within hours of the GSMA announcing the measures it has put in place to make MWC 2021 a success one of its biggest exhibitors has bailed.

Scott Bicheno

March 9, 2021

3 Min Read
Ericsson pulls out of Mobile World Congress 2021 – uh-oh!

Within hours of the GSMA announcing the measures it has put in place to make MWC 2021 a success one of its biggest exhibitors has bailed.

The news comes courtesy of Light Reading, which received a statement from Ericsson. “In view of the continuing impacts from Covid-19 and our primary consideration towards our people, their health and well-being, we have decided not to participate in MWC 2021,” it said.

“The decision, whilst regrettable, reflects our precautionary approach to managing the pandemic from a people and travel perspective whilst vaccination programs are rolled out globally. We look forward to the opportunity to rejoin future events and continue to work closely with the GSMA and industry partners.”

On 7 February 2020 Ericsson was the first major exhibitor to bail out of MWC 2020, which was due to commence 17 days later. That seemed to precipitate a cascade of similar announcements culminating in the GSMA cancelling the event just five days later. It’s hard to share a feeling of déjà vu about this latest development, but also important to consider what’s different this time around.

We’re still months away from MWC 2021, which has been rescheduled for 28 June. Why Ericsson feels compelled to adopt an absolute position on the matter so far in advance is its business, but there’s nothing like the time pressure experienced by everyone involved last year. The Coronavirus situation was still rapidly developing at that point and nobody really knew what to make of it.

Now we not only have a much better idea of what we’re facing, there has also been the miraculously quick development of several vaccines, which are being rolled out at varying rates around the world depending on the competence of the governments administering them. We also know that, in Europe at least, rates of coronavirus infection fell to almost zero during the summer months last year.

So the fact remains that there seems to be far less risk associated with attending MWC 2021 than there was last year, but still too much for some it seems. This news is undoubtedly a major blow to the GSMA, which will be having sleepless nights over it causing other exhibitors to lose their nerve. Ericsson seems especially risk averse but the precedent has been set now, which some others may feel legitimises any decision to follow suit.

Here’s the GSMA statement on the matter: “We respect Ericsson’s decision and look forward to welcoming the company back to Barcelona for future editions of MWC. 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.”

We’re not too worried about the epidemiological implications of attending MWC 2021 here at, for the previously discussed reasons. But if exhibitors keep pulling out there will come a point at which it just isn’t worth us physically attending because there won’t be enough going on. That would be a real shame because we really miss having a drink and a chat with industry figures of all kinds, something that is uniquely facilitated by trade shows.

About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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