MWC 2022 was supposed to mark a return to normal after the two-year pandemic, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine has ensured that won’t be the case.

Scott Bicheno

February 27, 2022

3 Min Read
Grave global events overshadow Mobile World Congress once more

MWC 2022 was supposed to mark a return to normal after the two-year pandemic, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine has ensured that won’t be the case.

While diplomatic tensions between the US and China mean the world of telecoms is never too far removed from global geopolitics, the most significant act of military aggression on the European continent since World War Two has made it hard to concentrate on anything else. Russia launched a full invasion of Ukraine just days before the start of the show, wrong-footing everyone, it seems, and forcing the rest of the world to scramble for a response.

Global mobile industry association the GSMA, which runs MWC and had to cancel it while the Covid pandemic sent the world into lockdown, is no exception. Today, on the eve of its first full Barcelona event for three years, it published the following on its website.

GSMA position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

The GSMA strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The situation is fast-moving, and we understand that various governments are considering broader sanctions against Russia. In light of this emerging situation and considering the tragic loss of life, MWC seems immaterial under the circumstances. MWC is a unifying event with a vision to convene the mobile ecosystem to progress ways and means that connectivity can ensure people, industry, and society thrive.

The GSMA follows all government sanctions and policies resulting from this situation. There will be no Russian Pavilion at MWC22. Security for the event is constantly reviewed and adjusted as information emerges.

It does indeed seem immaterial. Every exhibitor, attendee and commentator must now carry the weight of anxiety and sadness with them at what we all hoped would be a celebration of the industry we have devoted our professional lives to. Whatever we try to achieve at the show now feels just one smartphone news bulletin away from being rendered irrelevant.

But try we must. Walking around beautiful Barcelona and seeing its pavement cafes and bars buzzing with activity despite the surprisingly cold weather, serves as a reminder of the lighter side of life, of what it’s all about. The people we see here don’t seem to ask too much, just the chance to drink and chat with their mates and generally have a bit of a laugh every now and then.

While MWC is expected to be diminished this year, and may never recover its pre-pandemic attendance levels, those that do attend will be reminded why shows such as this are vital. Yes, you can have meetings over Zoom and sign contracts electronically but, ironically, telecommunications will never provide an adequate substitute for face-to-face meetings.

The social dynamics of meeting in person are unique. From non-verbal communication to shaking hands (which also seems to be finally returning) to combining business with pleasure over a drink or meal, a face-to-face conversation is a much richer and more enduring social interaction than any other. That’s we always record the Podcast in-person, if at all possible.

So while the GSMA’s position on the Russian Pavilion is understandable in the circumstances, it’s great to see so many other countries that have found their telecoms industries used as pawns in the return of The Great Game represented here. Let’s use this time to remind ourselves of all that we have in common, personally as well as professionally, and to show what can be achieved when people put aside their differences and just try to get along.


Image credit: GSMA

About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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