The GSMA, organizer of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, is working on this year’s edition, which will take place between June 28 and July 1. The organization is clear about it. In 2021 a transition edition will be held under strong sanitary measures, due to the impact of Covid-19 and the resulting restrictions, to return to a more normal edition in February 2022, with a return of large participations, according to John Hoffman , General Director of the GSMA, in a meeting with this newspaper.
“We want the 2021 edition to help the economic recovery of Barcelona,” explains the manager, who argues that the Barcelona Mobile is going to be the first major technological event in the world after the pandemic.
The executive plans for this year an event with a hybrid format, in which face-to-face participations are combined with other virtual ones. Hoffman believes that it is difficult to predict the physical participation that may occur this year, although he estimates that, between the four days of the event, some 50,000 people could attend, less than half of the participation of the last editions, until the cancellation decreed in 2020. “The economy needs it, and people want to come back to life,” he says.
The executive insists on his message of inviting Spanish participation, and explains that the event is open to professionals from sectors that are immersed in digital transformation, such as infrastructure, transport or health, beyond telecos. “It is an opportunity for these professionals,” says the executive, who points out that it is also an important event for entrepreneurs. Usually, the Spanish participation exceeds 30,000 people.
The organization is convinced of being able to carry out this year’s congress, which would only be suspended if the health authorities so decide, due to a possible worsening of the situation. Hoffman understands that there are people who cannot attend this year, although he defends the strategy applied by the GSMA to improve health security, in which he is working closely with the Catalan health authorities. In his opinion, in two months the situation will change, thanks to the increase in vaccination in all countries.
Also, remember the agreement signed with Chiron, to become the provider of medical services for this year’s event. “It will be very safe,” says Hoffman. Both parties are developing a plan, framed in the Fira’s Protocol of Security and Prevention against Covid-19.
Hoffman understands that there are companies that have ruled out a physical presence this year in Barcelona, such as Ericsson or Nokia. The manager points out that the event has the backing of the large operators such as Telefónica, Orange and Vodafone, as well as some of the main Asian manufacturers, such as Huawei and ZTE. The GSMA plans to publish the official agenda for the event in the next few days. Speakers include Orange and Vodafone CEOs Stephane Richard and Nick Read; China Mobile President Yang Jie; Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg; in addition to the first directors of groups such as ZTE, Qualcomm, IBM, Accenture and Kaspersky.
Headquarters. Looking ahead, Hoffman supports the continuation of the event in Barcelona, because, in his opinion, it has the support of the industry as a whole. The Mobile has been held in Barcelona since 2006, and previously it had been held in the French city of Cannes. Over the last few years, different cities have shown their willingness to organize this congress that, at least until 2024, will take place in Barcelona.
Ecosystem. In addition, Hoffman recalls how, in parallel to the congress, a technological and entrepreneurship ecosystem has been established in Barcelona, supported by a wide public-private collaboration.