Samsung withdraws from in-person MWC

It’s beginning to feel a bit like 2020, as yet another major manufacturer has announced that it won’t be attending MWC’s upcoming in-person event in Barcelona. Roughly a month and a half out, Samsung is joining a growing list of companies that already includes Google, IBM, Nokia, Sony, Oracle and Ericsson.

“The health and safety of our employees, partners and customers is our number one priority, so we have made the decision to withdraw from exhibiting in-person at this year’s Mobile World Congress,” the company said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “We look forward to participating virtually and continuing to work with GSMA and industry partners to advance new mobile experiences.”

In the lead up to last year’s event, there was something of a domino effect, as companies ducked out, one by one, ultimately leading up to the event’s cancelation. Obviously things are fairly different more than a year later. The virus is certainly less of an unknown, but its effects are still having a massive impact on much of the world. Even in those places where vaccination rollout has been swift, there are still plenty of question marks when it comes to attending a global event in massive, tightly packed spaces. MWC had already been pushed back several months from its standard February-March time frame, but organizers have so far been confident about the inevitability of an in-person event.

MWC’s governing body — the GSMA — recently told TechCrunch, “We appreciate that it will not be possible for everyone to attend MWC Barcelona 2021, but we are pleased that exhibitors including Verizon, Orange and Kaspersky are  excited to join us in Barcelona. To ensure everyone can enjoy the unique MWC experience, we have developed an industry-leading virtual event platform. 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’ve reached out for an additional comment following Samsung’s statement. The GSMA has been positioning MWC as something of a hybrid event — similar to the upcoming Computex in Taipei. It’s difficult to say at this point what the in-person aspect is going to look like when so many high-profile companies have opted out. Either way, it seems safe to assume that — even as things return to relative normal — the virtual aspect won’t be going away any time soon.