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Everything you need to know about the return to normality of the MWC

Everything you need to know about the return to normality of the MWC

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Although 5G and the metaverse are expected to be the protagonists of this edition, for now the words that are most heard at the fair are ‘normality’ and ‘face-to-face’. For now, normality returns with the recovery of the dates of previous years, from February 28 to March 3. Although, the great numbers of previous editions are still far away; GSMA expects between 40,000-60,000 visitors, that is, twice as many as the previous edition (held in summer) but far from the 110,000 attendees of the 2019 edition. An impact of 240 million euros is calculated in Barcelona, ​​half of the 500 million that the event left in the city before the pandemic.

The MWC in data

Fira Gran Vía in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat will fill seven pavilions with 1,500 exhibitors and will have more than 1,000 speakers, of which 95% will intervene in person, according to the GSMA. The organization of the event expects to receive between 40,000 and 60,000 attendees, much more than the 2021 edition but still well below the 110,000 people that the event managed to gather in 2019 before the pandemic. The Barcelona Hoteliers Guild calculates an occupancy rate of 65%, which will be around 18,000-20,000 rooms. It is estimated that the congress will also generate 6,700 temporary jobs.

Absences and an unexpected veto

Another indicator of the return to normality is the much smaller absence of big brands – Lenovo and Sony will be missing – compared to the twenty that were missing the previous year. GSMA CEO John Hoffman has already warned, “There is great interest in the event, but this year the Asians will not come.”

On the other hand, given the conflict created in Ukraine, GSMA has cancelled the Russian flag, which means that 20 companies from the Russian Federation cannot participate: “We are going to follow the list of companies sanctioned by the US government. Other Russian companies, we urge them to do the right thing,” said GSMA sources after the start of the conflict and global sanctions.

Also, in this call traditional spaces are recovered such as the Spanish pavilion with 35 exhibiting companies, the role of women and their inclusion in technology (Diversity4Tech), in verticals (IndustryCity) and the startups forum (4YFN).

Strikes and reinforcements… again

The MWC returns to Barcelona, ​​although the thousands of attendees will have to adapt to a strike called by the train drivers of Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) who already in other editions saw the opportunity for visibility that gives them the importance of this event to institutional level. Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB) will reinforce the metro service and will start up a shuttle bus to facilitate the mobility of congress attendees. 

5G and the metaverse, the kings of content

At the content level, the centre of all conversations will be the metaverse, which is expected to generate more than 800.4 billion dollars in 2028, according to Accenture. According to their data, in 2021, companies doubled their commitment to virtual and augmented reality, with 88% of global organizations investing in technologies to create virtual environments.

As data, Telefonica (whose executive president, José María Álvarez-Pallete, has just been elected new president of the GSMA council until 2022) has been one of the main supporters of the MWC and in this edition it recovers space in the Fira, with great deployment directors and meetings with investors. Its stand will have almost 1,000m2 and will have a digital replica in the metaverse, where it will present its value propositions and digital transformation. Vodafone will also have a strong presence at the congress.

And…the question in the air

Will Barcelona achieve the renewal of the Mobile World Congress beyond the year 2024? The administrations want to close a long-term agreement that they can present these days, but GSMA opts for prudence while waiting to see how the current edition develops. It is a negotiation with many interlocutors: the Barcelona City Council, the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Fira de Barcelona, ​​which is leading the talks with the GSMA.

Let us remember that in 2020 the holding of the fair in Barcelona was extended for one more year, until 2024, as a way of compensating for the fact that the event was not held that year due to the coronavirus pandemic. In July 2015, the last major contract was signed to hold the MWC in Barcelona between 2018 and 2023, a six-year agreement that is intended to be reissued in the current negotiations. The GSMA used to close the agreements several years in advance -the current period was closed in 2015- but the political and institutional instability in Barcelona after the referendum on October 1, 2017, added to the post-arrival. After the pandemic, it postponed a signing that should have taken place in 2020.

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