Organisers of the world's biggest mobile technology fair are pulling the plug over worries about the viral outbreak from China.

NZ's largest tech retailer pulls expo, citing coronavirus disruption

The annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) will no longer be held as planned in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 24-27.

MWC is the second biggest technology event after the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), staged in Las Vegas every January.


The Barcelona show is just the latest in a wave of technology fairs and conferences to be axed over virus worries.

Earlier today, US networking giant Cisco cancelled its flagship Australasian customer and partner event, Cisco Live, which had been expected to draw close to 10,000 people to Melbourne on March 3 to 6.

And earlier this week PB Tech, NZ's largest independent technology retailer, cancelled its PB Tech Expo 2020, which had been scheduled for February 28 to March 1 at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau. CEO Gary Bigwood said it was possible the event would be reanimated around August.

Bigwood said the expo had been pulled because many tech vendors had trouble travelling. He said high stock levels meant there were no delays with most tech products in stories. Similarly, Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi have said that stockpiling put in place for the usual Chinese New Year slowdown has had the effect of carrying them over virus outbreaks so far. Online, vendors including Apple are still promising delivery of product within days.

The decision to axe this year's MWC came after dozens of tech companies and wireless carriers dropped out, with the latest cancellations by Nokia, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and Britain's BT on Wednesday. Other companies that dropped out earlier include Ericsson, Nokia, Sony, Amazon, Intel and LG. The companies cited travel difficulties, plus concerns for the safety of staff and visitors.

A number of measures proposed by MWC organisers, including a handshake ban, plans to step up cleaning and disinfecting and make sure speakers don't use the same microphone, failed to save the event.

Organisers and government officials had sought to hold out against growing pressure to cancel the annual tech extravaganza, which had been expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors from about 200 countries, including 5000 to 6000 from China.

The show normally represents a huge source of revenue for hotels, restaurants and taxi companies. Authorities have estimated the show was to generate 473 million euros ($516 million) and more than 14,000 part-time jobs for the local economy.


Spain's vice president, Carmen Calvo, said there was "no public health reason" to call off the show. She said Spain had a good health response system and was following all of the recommendations from the World Health Organisation.

Spanish labor unions said that the show was called off due to the panic of the major technological companies. The CCOO union's regional leader, Javier Pacheco, denounced "the alarmist attitude of the technological companies that from their position of global supremacy don't care about the local impact."

With agencies.