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The venue of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. (Reuters)
The venue of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. (Reuters)

Coronavirus: Disruptions spread as top firms pull out of biggest telecom event

  • The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona faces cancellation due to the coronavirus outbreak
  • Facebook, Amazon, Sony, NVidia, LG Electronics, ZTE, Vivo, Intel and Ericsson pull out of the Barcelona event

MUMBAI : The coronavirus outbreak has left the world’s biggest telecommunications show facing a crisis as major technology companies have pulled out of the 24-27 February event over safety concerns.

The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which sets the tone for annual telecommunications and networking trends and spending across the industry, faces cancellation, Bloomberg reported.

The disruption shows that while businesses keep their disaster management plans handy to tackle issues such as power outages, they are less prepared to handle problems arising from climate change and global interconnectivity, which require specific pandemic management plans.

Facebook, Amazon, Sony, NVidia, LG Electronics, ZTE, Vivo, Intel and Ericsson have pulled out of the Barcelona event due to potential risks from the coronavirus epidemic.

Attendees from China will have to prove that they have been outside the country for a minimum of 14 days in order to participate in the event. “We had a major 5G demonstration planned for the MWC this year, and the falling attendance is going to be a disappointment after all the efforts that have gone into preparing for the showcase. A third of the major attendees have pulled out already," said C.P. Gurnani, chief executive officer, Tech Mahindra on the sidelines of the Nasscom technology and leadership forum in Mumbai.

Tech Mahindra is a regular at the MWC and a frontrunner in 5G technology from the Indian IT services sector. Any impact on operations and vendor ecosystems however will take another couple of months to gauge, said Gurnani.

According to a recent report by Forrester, just-in-time delivery models of businesses leave little cushion to soften the blow of suppliers defaulting due to delays. Extensive reliance on third parties might also mean that an outbreak on the other side of the world shuts down a service vital to business operations.

“Many business continuity plans still overemphasize technology disruptions as the most common scenario and technology as an all-encompassing risk mitigation and response solution. An uncoordinated plan that doesn’t take all these downstream impacts into account may see a fully functioning IT department supporting a finance or sales department that has a 40% absenteeism rate because of the pandemic," noted the report.

A widespread disease outbreak can wreak havoc across human resources, procurement, production, and all other aspects of the business. At present, most companies with a presence in China are encouraging employees to work remotely.

In a statement, IT services major Tata Consultancy Services said its business continuity plan is to ensure that there is no disruption of service to clients and that employees in China are encouraged to work from home and halt all non-essential travel.

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