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March 3, 2022
The return of Mobile World Congress went better than many people thought it would, especially considering the difficult circumstances around it.
At the start of the week we reflected on the unique nature of this year’s MWC, which was the first full Barcelona event for three years and took place in the shadow of the distressing conflict in Ukraine. We hoped attendees would take the opportunity to celebrate our industry, remind ourselves how important face-to-face meetings are, and generally try to have a bit of a laugh.
We’re delighted to reflect that’s exactly what seems to have happened. On the Monday morning we feared attendance may not even hit the half-capacity anticipated by the GSMA, but by lunchtime the halls were buzzing and, if still less full than pre-pandemic times, were certainly full enough. From our conversations, we’ve received attendance estimates in the 60 thousand range, which isn’t bad at all under the circumstances.
Furthermore, the consensus of people we spoke to was that the reduced attendance made for a much more pleasant experience. Massive though it is, when you cram 100 thousand people into the Fira it makes getting around the place very difficult. While bumping into people is an intrinsic part of the trade show experience, it’s not meant literally, but in previous years the stress of constantly having to play human dodgems was a distinct negative.
Which brings us to the only real negative from this year – the hall monitors. The show employed a small army of young people, identified as ‘community agents’ by their uniform green vests, to police every inch of the show floor and enforce the strict mask mandate. The fact that we would have to wear masks at the show was priced-in and accepted, regrettable, and in our opinion needless, as it was. But to be constantly hectored and told-off for even the most fleeting lapse was trying.
That aside, the overwhelming consensus seemed to be that MWC 2022 exceeded everyone’s expectations. The cliché that ‘people do business with people’ was reinforced once more and, at times, it felt more like a school reunion than a trade show. It really was great to see everyone again and our only regret is that the success of this year’s show makes it likely it will soon return to its overpopulated pomp.
Perhaps because people were more interested in catching up than talking shop, there was no single dominant technological theme. Of course we’re still talking about 5G and, a couple of years into its rollout, the industry is still trying to define what the point of it is. The metaverse and public cloud were less conspicuous than we had expected them to be, but remained two major elephants in the room nonetheless. Instead this year’s theme was friendship – an especially poignant one given the broader circumstances – and we’re happy to raise a glass to that.
As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com 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 Telecoms.com 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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