GSMA insists it’s still worth coming to MWC 2021

Mobile operator trade body the GSMA, which runs Mobile World Congress, held a press conference that came over like a plea for people to attend this year’s event.

When the conference was announced, with just a day’s notice, the natural suspicion was that they were going to call the whole thing off. There haven’t been any more high-profile cancellations recently, but maybe all the lingering hassle and uncertainty around the Covid pandemic just meant it was proving impossible to host a viable physical event.

That didn’t turn out to be the case – quite the opposite in fact. The hastily organised press conference was instead arranged to tell everyone how well everything is going and to stress what a great event it will be. As if that was ever in doubt.

The challenge presented by such a short lead time resulted in the conference starting ten minutes later than advertised. It eventually manifested itself as an on-stage double act between Director General Mats Granryd and CEO John Hoffman. It was advertised as offering the latest MWC news, but turned out to be an extended pitch for the event.

There was lots of the familiar corporate window dressing about green stuff, safety, etc and the Women4Tech programme has been rebranded Diversity4Tech. Some representatives of the local emergency services (‘first responders’, in US parlance) were brought up on stage to be told what a great job they have done during the pandemic. We also heard about some other stuff the GSMA is up to.

Hoffman was especially keen to stress that ‘we’re back in business’, underlining the central theme of the event. They conceded that fewer people will attend, but those that do will be ‘the right ones’. There was one bit of news – prospective attendees can now buy the basic entry pass for just €21 (ex 10% VAT), down from €699, with some of that cash being donated to a Spanish Covid aid fund and those who take the offer also getting 50% discounts for the next two events.

All this does beg the question of why, just a month before the start of MWC 2021, the GSMA chose to hold such a press event. It still reckons 30-50,000 people will attend, but you have to wonder how close it is even to the lower end of that range today. Everyone in the telecoms industry wants MWC 2021 to be a success but, with the UK requiring people to quarantine for ten days after returning from Spain, for example, it’s still likely that many potential attendees will conclude it’s all just too much like hard work.

  • MWC19 Los Angeles

  • MWC20 Barcelona


  1. Avatar Graham Turnbull 20/05/2021 @ 2:51 pm

    Planning to attend as an exhibitor but it’s low financial risk for us and will not make travel plans for at least another four weeks. We hope to stay in better accommodation than usual!

  2. Avatar John Smith 20/05/2021 @ 5:00 pm

    Idiots, this show is going to be a big flop or will be canceled a week before.

    All the major companies such as Ericsson, Sony, Intel, Google, Samsung already pulled out and people from most of the countries can’t travel or has different priorities.

  3. Avatar Janusz Jezowicz 20/05/2021 @ 6:39 pm

    MWC Registration page has no info about the new discounted pass. Is it real ?

  4. Avatar Eduardo Velasco 21/05/2021 @ 3:11 am

    Great opportunity to attend for fully vaccinated people. In Spain there is a saying: “entre menos burros mas olotes” that is basically a colloquial contrarian view stating that if less people has to share the same opportunities there will be more for each . John Hoffman is right: The people attending will be the right one to talk to, the decision makers, those with something to show, and the capacity to buy, to sell, to negotiate, to transact. Those innovating and who has no time to loose for the world to know about their innovation. There will be certainly more opportunities for each of those attending. I will attend, definitively. Nos vemos ahí Barcelona. Gracias!

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