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March 8, 2021
The GSMA is determined to make MWC happen this year but is having to ask potential attendees to make a lot of concessions to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The event, which would normally have taken place by now, is scheduled to start on 28 June in its usual location of Barcelona. But with the pandemic still far from over, cramming thousands of people into an enclosed space for four days is pretty far from epidemiological best practice, so something’s got to give.
Today the GSMA, which runs the event, announced its health and safety plan for the event, even going so far as to brand it ‘Committed Community’. Not to be confused with mental hospitals, the plan indicates that everyone has got to muck in if the event is to go ahead and be a success. Essentially that means doing all the stuff we have becomes used to, such as wearing masks, washing hands and trying not to pant in each other’s faces, but there are some specifics.
The most important feature is that proof of a negative Covid test (rapid antigen) will be required for entry, which will be entirely managed by the MWC app. Since that’s likely to be a prerequisite for getting into Spain at all, that’s not really any extra hassle. The tests are only considered valid for three days, however, which means most people will have to take at least one more while they’re in the country.
MWC will be setting up testing centres within the venue (the usual Fira), where you can get your top-up test. The health services partner has yet to be announced, but we expect it to be in the next couple of weeks, at which point the cost of such services should be revealed. There will also be regular temperature checks of the kind you get at the gym, the results of which may compel people to take a test even if their previous one hasn’t expired.
Other than that the big difference, other than the demand that everyone wear the masks that have become such a regrettable feature of modern life, will be a strict one-way system in the venue, made more plausible by the fact that the GSMA is using the whole Fira despite there likely being fewer exhibitors. On that note it’s still optimistically hoping for up to 50,000 attendees.
“We’ve worked with partners, health authorities and medical professionals to create a plan that builds confidence in our return to in-person events,” said John Hoffman GSMA CEO. “The GSMA has safely and successfully organised premier mobile events for many years. Since 2006, we have worked closely with the Host City Parties and Fira Barcelona to keep everyone safe and secure at MWC events.
“No doubt Covid-19 is our biggest challenge to date. But our experience gives us a rock-solid foundation from which we have built our plan. This foundation means MWC21 Barcelona can go ahead safely, in person, with a digital online component for those unable to attend. It will remain the unique, unmissable experience that has made it the world’s most important mobile event.”
“Working together with the Shanghai authorities, we’ve just concluded the first in our MWC series in Shanghai,” said GSMA’s Director General Mats Granryd. “Our partners, exhibitors, board, and local businesses’ support was heartening, and everyone contributed to creating a safe environment by sticking to the safety measures. I am now looking forward to MWC21 Barcelona; it is time to bring together the mobile ecosystem in-person. I relish the discussions that will emerge from this essential event.”
The Shanghai experience should offer some useful insights but the Barcelona event is much bigger and more international. If last Summer is anything to go by Covid cases should be very low by the end of June, However the psychological damage is done. While attending MWC 2021 shouldn’t pose much more of a health risk than any other year, we have been conditioned to become risk averse over the past 12 months. It remains to be seen whether all the precautions announced will reassure people enough to persuade them to get on with their lives.
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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