Samsung cancels in-person Mobile World Congress 2021 participation

The multinational conglomerate is the latest big name to pull out of the tech fair over coronavirus uncertainties

Visitors take photos of the Samsung stand at the 2019 Mobile World Congress (by Laura Pous)
Visitors take photos of the Samsung stand at the 2019 Mobile World Congress (by Laura Pous) / Xènia Palau

Xènia Palau | Barcelona

May 11, 2021 09:53 AM

Samsung, one of the biggest names in mobile technology, has announced it will not be participating in person at this year's Mobile World Congress. 

The Korean conglomerate pulled out over uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a statement released on Tuesday morning, the company said it views the health and safety of its workers and customers as a priority and said its presence would be limited to online events.

Still, the firm assures it will continue to work with the GSMA and other partners to "continue to develop new mobile experiences."

Other companies that have been pulling out of in-person events over Covid-19 fears include Google, Facebook, Sony, BT, Ericsson, Nokia, and Oracle.

On April 5, LG also pulled out, but not due to the pandemic, but because it quits the mobile phone sector. 

Mobile World Congress organizers GSMA cancelled the fair’s 2020 edition due to the coronavirus pandemic, and delayed the 2021 show from March to the end of June. However, they have reassured hopeful attendees that the upcoming edition will a least partially be held in person and is "moving forward at full speed."

"Much smaller" economic impact

The Mobile World Congress expects to have a “much smaller” impact on the Catalan economy than regular years, due largely to the much reduced international participation.

CEO of the organizing company, John Hoffman, explained on Catalonia’s Rac 1 radio station in April that the trade show expects to bring around “20% of the usual, maybe a little more, between €100-200 million" to the local economy. 

Despite this reduction and the obligation to do a partially virtual edition, Hoffman is satisfied, especially when compared to 2020. "Canceling last year's edition was a huge risk. Unfortunately, we are half as big as we were a year ago. The Mobile World Congress could have disappeared," he said.

The American businessman has also called for more people from around Spain to attend in person, as there would likely be some restrictions on international mobility. “We want to see the local community helping us,” he commented.

According to data provided by Hoffman, about 28,000 people from across Spain attended the event each year, a figure that the GSMA wants to raise to around 35,000, with a total capacity of around 50,000. 

The CEO of the GSMA wanted to highlight the security of the event and the protocols that have been developed. “We are confident that our program is safe,” he assured.

And although this year's event is set to be much smaller than usual and a number of companies have decided against participating in person, Barcelona's deputy mayor, Jaume Collboni, is clear that it will still take place.

“It is a resounding success for the city,” he said, adding that “it is important that the city does not stop.”