DT, Vodafone bow out of on-site MWC21

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DT said it will showcase its latest news during a virtual event held the same week as MWC Barcelona. (Getty Images)

Deutsche Telekom (DT) and Vodafone Group became the latest to opt out of having a physical presence at Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona this year, joining a number of big name players in going digital.

Spanish media outlet elEconomista.es appeared to be the first to report the news.

A DT representative confirmed the move in a statement to Fierce, noting “large gatherings of people continue to represent a risk” given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and “the slowly growing number of fully vaccinated people in Germany.”

“At the present time, we still do not believe it is justifiable to take this risk for a large number of our employees. Telekom has therefore decided not to be physically present in this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and will organize a fully virtual event instead where we will present our latest technological developments and visions,” the representative wrote, adding “we fully support the Mobile World Congress and wish all participants every success.” DT’s virtual showcase will be held June 28 and 29.

Similarly, a Vodafone representative told Fierce in a statement it remains “fully committed” to the event, but will have a digital rather than physical stand. For the most part, its employees will not attend in person.

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“We’ll be leveraging our virtual digital presence and there will be a few executive committee members going to Barcelona who have keynotes or other commitments. Opting for a hybrid presence with no employee travel is consistent with our global health and safety policy to safeguard Vodafone employees during this pandemic,” the representative wrote.

The operators join several other major companies which have opted not to attend MWC in person this year. Ericsson was notably the first big name to drop out, with Nokia, Cisco, Intel, BT and others following. U.S. operators have largely kept mum on the matter.  

Shortly after Ericsson announced its withdrawal from the physical show, consultant Danielle Royston stepped up to take its sprawling 65,000 square foot stand, which she plans to use to showcase cloud vendors.

At a press conference in May, GSMA executives said they expect between 30,000 and 50,000 attendees at MWC21 Barcelona, Reuters reported