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Facebook suspends MWC plans due to coronavirus risk



Facebook is out of MWC.


Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook is the latest company to withdraw from MWC in Barcelona later this month due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. It joins a growing list of companies — including Sony, Amazon, Intel, Ericsson, LG and Nvidia — deciding that the risks of attending the mobile trade show outweigh the benefits.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Facebook employees won’t be attending this year’s Mobile World Congress due to the evolving public health risks related to coronavirus,” a company spokesman said Tuesday in a statement. “We will continue to collaborate with the GSMA and our partners and thank them for their efforts.”

Mobile World Congress 2020 is scheduled to run Feb. 24 through Feb. 27. The outbreak of coronavirus is currently the dominant topic of conversation around the mobile show. Normally, innovations like foldable phones and 5G would be on people’s minds.

First disclosed in late December, the coronavirus has infected over 42,000 people and killed over 1,000 as of Tuesday. As a results, companies such as Apple, Google and Nintendo have closed offices, limited business travel and faced supply chain disruptions.

The GSMA, the organization that runs MWC, said it will have additional medical personnel onsite. On Sunday, it banned any travelers from China’s Hubei province, where the coronavirus outbreak began. MWC will also require attendees who have passed through China to show proof they have been outside the country for 14 days. It will also put in place several other measures to reduce the risks posed by the coronavirus, including a temperature checks and a no-handshake policy.

In spite of assurances from the GSMA, many companies have decided it’s not worth risking the health of their employees to attend.

In the past, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had been a popular keynote speaker at the show, although it’s been several years since he last attended and he wasn’t scheduled to appear this year. Facebook’s presence at MWC is usually small and focused on engineering and infrastructure projects designed to improve connectivity in rural areas and developing countries. Unlike many big companies attending the show, MWC doesn’t serve as a platform for Facebook to announce flagship products.

Many of the companies due to make announcements at the show — including those still planning to attend — are now scheduling their own separate launch events instead of holding press conferences in Barcelona. Sony is planning to livestream the launch of its Xperia phone over YouTube, while Ericsson will hold local Unboxed events to discuss the announcements it would have made at the show.

Mobile World Congress 2020

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Britain in talks with 6 firms about building gigafactories for EV batteries



Britain is in talks with six companies about building gigafactories to produce batteries for electric vehicles (EV), the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing people briefed on the discussions.

Car makers Ford Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co Ltd, conglomerates LG Corp and Samsung, and start-ups Britishvolt and InoBat Auto are in talks with the British government or local authorities about locations for potential factories and financial support, the report added .


(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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EBay to sell South Korean unit for about $3.6 billion to Shinsegae, Naver



EBay will sell its South Korean business to retailer Shinsegae Group and e-commerce firm Naver for about 4 trillion won ($3.6 billion), local newspapers reported on Wednesday.

EBay Korea is the country’s third-largest e-commerce firm with market share of about 12.8% in 2020, according to Euromonitor. It operates the platforms Gmarket, Auction and G9.

Shinsegae, Naver and eBay Korea declined to comment.

Lotte Shopping had also been in the running, the Korea Economic Daily and other newspapers said, citing unnamed investment banking sources.

South Korea represents the world’s fourth largest e-commerce market. Driven by the coronavirus pandemic, e-commerce has soared to account for 35.8% of the retail market in 2020 compared with 28.6% in 2019, according to Euromonitor data.

Shinsegae and Naver formed a retail and e-commerce partnership in March by taking stakes worth 250 billion won in each other’s affiliates.

($1 = 1,117.7000 won)


(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Canada launches long-awaited auction of 5G spectrum



Canada is set to begin a hotly anticipated auction of the mobile telecommunications bandwidth necessary for 5G rollout, one that was delayed more than a year by the pandemic.

The 3,500 MHz is a spectrum companies need to provide 5G, which requires more bandwidth to expand internet capabilities.The auction, initially scheduled for June 2020, is expected to take several weeks with Canadian government selling off 1,504 licenses in 172 service areas.

Smaller operators are going into the auction complaining that recent regulatory rulings have further tilted the scales in the favour of the country’s three biggest telecoms companies – BCE, Telus and Rogers Communications Inc – which together control around 90% of the market as a share of revenue.

Canadian mobile and internet consumers, meanwhile, have complained for years that their bills are among the world’s steepest. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has threatened to take action if the providers did not cut bills by 25%.

The last auction of the 600 MHz spectrum raised C$3.5 billion ($2.87 billion) for the government.

The companies have defended themselves, saying the prices they charge are falling.

Some 23 bidders including regional players such as Cogeco and Quebec’s Videotron are participating in the process. Shaw Communications did not apply to participate due to a $16 billion takeover bid from Rogers. Lawmakers and analysts have warned that market concentration will intensify if that acquisition proceeds.

In May, after Canada‘s telecoms regulator issued a ruling largely in favour of the big three on pricing for smaller companies’ access to broadband networks, internet service provider TekSavvy Inc withdrew from the auction, citing the decision.

Some experts say the government has been trying to level the playing field with its decision to set aside a proportion of spectrum in certain areas for smaller companies.

Gregory Taylor, a spectrum expert and associate professor at the University of Calgary, said he was pleased the government was auctioning off smaller geographic areas of coverage.

In previous auctions where the license covered whole provinces, “small providers could not participate because they could not hope to cover the range that was required in the license,” Taylor said.

Smaller geographic areas mean they have a better chance of fulfilling the requirements for the license, such as providing service to 90% of the population within five years of the issuance date.

The auction has no scheduled end date, although the federal ministry in charge of the spectrum auction has said winners would be announced within five days of bidding completion.

($1 = 1.2181 Canadian dollars)


(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by David Gregorio)

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