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.

  • MWC19 Los Angeles

  • MWC20 Barcelona


  1. Avatar Pat 09/03/2021 @ 1:51 pm

    And they are dead right !
    it’s a super spreader event

  2. Avatar Chris 09/03/2021 @ 2:36 pm

    As well as being careful, I wonder if Ericsson have learned that thy can continue to get the business without the significant expense of MWC. If so others may follow and save their money for other uses like entertaining journalists or similarly important activities.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 09/03/2021 @ 3:52 pm

      If they spend all the spare cash on journalists then that’s fine with me.

  3. Avatar Andy Tiller 09/03/2021 @ 4:58 pm

    I can lend some possible insights into “why Ericsson feels compelled to adopt an absolute position on the matter so far in advance”. Large (and small) vendors spend many months preparing for MWC, including significant up-front external costs (eg exhibition stand design & build, booking hotels and flights…) and internal costs (building demos, planning marketing launches of new products…). If a company is thinking of pulling out, the earlier the decision the better (if fact, now is already quite late in the day).

  4. Avatar Ben Ashuor 10/03/2021 @ 12:23 am

    It’s really a premature decision to be taken by a key exhibitor like Ericsson, given the fact that still more than a100 days to go with vaccination process just gained momentum in most countris arround the world making it possible for those who would like to attend to get vaccinated, I guess GSMA should encourage the community to keep plans alive till at least end of April where situations are clearer and likelihood is more visible and should not get disappointed by Ericsson’s decision.

    • Avatar Guillaume 10/03/2021 @ 6:38 pm

      It’s not that premature… It’s just that Ericsson put the safety of it’s employees before attending a congress.

      Every few months since last march, we ( yes I’m an Ericsson employee ) receive a mail telling us that Work From Home is still in force ( right now at least until end of Q2 ), and that going to the office/to a customer site is a last resort option. [ I had to go there today to get a company car to go to a customer datacenter… got my two masks for the day [ given by the security ] and spent about 10 minutes in the office. ]

      There’s a program in place to buy desks for the employees [ well we buy the desks from IKEA and we get reimbursed ] and Ericsson provide office chairs, keyboards and screens to those that ask ( to go along with the desk ).

  5. Avatar Sridhar Neelakantan 10/03/2021 @ 9:14 am

    In my opinion Ericsson is right. The disease is not under enough control. Article says Europe saw very few cases last summer. But we have seen what happened after that–why did that good situation not continue? Spending 8 or more hours a day inside closed auditoriums under artificial cooling and ventilation with thousands of people arriving from all parts of the world is a perfect set-up for the virus to attack. Now this article asks “why decide so far in advance?” but if they had pulled out in June people will say “this is last minute ditching; hundreds of small companies have invested so much money and big companies think they can jeopardise at their will;”. I think Ericsson is behaving responsibly in announcing their decision early.

  6. Avatar Abimbola Abiodun 11/03/2021 @ 7:08 am

    I’m my opinion, Ericsson hasn’t done anything strange or contrary to their values. Ericsson puts the the safety of the lives of their employees first. I’m an Ericsson staff and can tell you for a fact that we are not allowed by Ericsson to resume to offices till now just for safety reasons.
    Although we are being briefed from time to time on the situation and development in each country.
    We have also been provided with all we need to effectively work from home,office tables,table lamps,office chairs ,etc
    Ericsson informing GSMA ahead of time is just in line and ideal.
    Ericsson on the outside is just what it is in the inside .

  7. Avatar Vinko 12/03/2021 @ 5:18 am

    Could it be that the real reason to pull out is that the outcome of MWC is simply not worth the expense? Is cuddling and pampering your existing clients between tapas bars and Catalonian restaurants really necessary? Or do we think that we win new customers in those same restaurants?

    Does Ericsson care so much about their employees to sacrifice growth, if there was growth potential in MWC?

  8. Avatar Alicia Garcia Llanas 16/03/2021 @ 9:52 am

    I have been organising these type of events for many years now – and I know like many other exhibitors the time, efforts and costs it takes to build a presence at these Congresses. And if only takes one person to land – test positive and then what? Who will be made responsible if one person develops the illness two days in the show? Who will be made responsible then? Ericsson is being wise and showing a care for its employees and other industry players That follow their lead.

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