Barcelona saw a major wireless technology trade show open its doors on Monday. The event featured a reduced attendance and increased safety and health measures. These changes reflect the reality of industry conventions during the pandemic.
Mobile World Congress was cancelled last year due to COVID-19 concerns. Its revival in 2021 makes it one the few major trade shows that has attempted a comeback despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in many parts.
MWC is a glamorous and highly attended event where tech and telecom companies set up elaborate pavilions to showcase the latest mobile devices and meet clients. The world’s largest mobile industry trade show will likely be in decline this year.
“Obviously, there’s a big difference between previous years. Mats Granryd (director general, GSM Association), who organizes the show and represents over 750 mobile network operators, said that this show will be smaller and safer.
“We are taking many precautions. We test people every 72 hours. No hands, nothing is touchy.
Companies like Qualcomm, Nokia, Intel and Sony are still avoiding the event, while South Korea’s Samsung is only holding a virtual launch. One of the few major sponsors is Huawei, the Chinese tech giant.
Granryd stated that he expects 25,000 to 35,000 people from 143 countries, which is a fraction of the over 100,000 visitors from 200 other countries who have visited in recent years.
Virtually, other visitors will also be present, along with a third the 350 speakers at the event, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Visitors to Barcelona’s Fira Gran Via exhibition center had their temperature checked by staff at entry. Additional safety features include COVID-19 testing and extra ventilation. One-way routes are also available around the venue. To flash the negative result of a test, attendees must use an official MWC App.
Lionel Anciaux CEO of IOT Factory, a Brussels-based smart sensor company, stated that his first impression was that he is happy to be back. Anciaux stated that he attends Mobile World Congress every year and that he felt that he missed out on opportunities to meet new partners and learn about the latest trends in technology.
In the hope that the pandemic would be under control, the GSMA moved the show to a February slot. Granryd stated that they will move it to February in 2022.
Spanish authorities have agreed to allow exhibitors, sponsors, partners, and attendees to travel without restrictions in order for the show’s four-day run to be a success.
Spain relaxed COVID-19 restrictions Saturday by removing the requirement that face masks be worn outdoors. This was subject to people remaining at least 1.5m (5ft) apart. In public places and public transport, masks are still required indoors.
Barcelona hosted the MWC from 2006 to 2006. Last year’s cancellation caused a severe economic blow to Barcelona, with lost revenue for restaurants, hotels and taxi companies.
According to local authorities, the show generates approximately 473 million euros ($516 millions) and more that 14,000 jobs in the local economy.
Other major tech industry trade shows that were disrupted by pandemics are also expected to be back in force. These include Berlin’s IFA in September, Lisbon’s WebSummit in November, and Las Vegas’s CES in January.