MWC 2021 Big Gamble

Mobile World Congress Barcelona is the largest professional technology show in the world. Every year, in normal circumstances, over 100,000 people come to the show to see new technologies, attend keynotes from the top leaders in the ecosystems, and, especially, do business.

That’s why premium space at the Fira Barcelona halls is hard to find. Many companies have the exact location for their booths and pavilions reserved year after year.

Big exhibitors such as Huawei, Samsung, Ericsson, and Nokia, among others, have large pavilions in the first three halls of the Fira Gran Via complex. Many of them have several booths in different locations. Additionally, companies such as Sony, Dell-VMware, Intel, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, ZTE, and others have large pavilions at Hall 3, one of the most visited during the event.

Unless something better becomes available, keeping your location is critical for all those companies to prepare for the following year and make sure they get the best return at the show.

The GSMA is signaling their exhibitors that they might lose their precious spots

For many tech journalists covering the show, including me, the first thing we have in our agendas for MWC is Ericsson’s press conference on Monday morning. The conference, held at 8 am at their 65,000 ft² pavilion, has become a tradition for most of us.

Obviously, that didn’t happen in 2020, as the pandemic finally scrapped MWC. Last year, after the cancellation, the GSMA promised exhibitors to keep their location for this year’s conference and a substantial discount instead of refunds.

Earlier this week, the Swedish infrastructure giant was the first to announce its withdrawal from MWC 2021.

Right after Ericsson's announcement, TelcoDR CEO Danielle Royston posted on LinkedIn that she would be “happy to take over Ericsson’s stand space in Hall 2.” She didn’t have to wait much for the GSMA to answer. Also, on LinkedIn, they immediately said: “Let’s do it.”

Within three days, the GSMA sold the space originally reserved for the Ericsson pavilion to TelcoDR, a cloud services consultancy looking to launch internationally at the show.

Next year, when Mobile World Congress goes back to its usual dates and full mobility would be restored, Ericsson might have to find another location at the show.

Yesterday, the GSMA announced TelcoDR “will create a stand exclusively focused on ways to leverage the public cloud in telecom”. Having one of the biggest pavilions at MWC, Royston thinks she can even put a tennis court in the space:

The move, which the GSMA has praised as a successful addition to MWC, also serves as a warning to other companies thinking of withdrawing from this year’s conference.

“Public cloud is crucial to the future of telecommunications and will enable operators to transform their networks, IT workloads and processes to create massive efficiencies, innovate and become much more profitable,” Royston says.

Other companies such as Nokia, Sony, and Oracle, who already announced their withdrawal of this year’s show, could face the same deed and not have a spot for 2022. Many other European tech companies are thinking of skipping the conference this year, and now they might think twice about it.

Let’s see how this gamble pans out for the GSMA and the Mobile World Congress. Still 14 weeks to the official start of the show. Hopefully, for the GSMA, Barcelona, and the entire communications market, we can at least have a glimpse of normality this year.

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Pablo Valerio

Pablo Valerio

Tech journalist, engineer. Based in Catalonia, covers international tech events, and Smart Cities. https://citiesofthefuture.eu and http://iot.eetimes.com