MWC set to become biggest ever with 100,000 attendees


Attendance figures at the industry’s biggest trade show in Barcelona next week could hit six figures

Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016 attendee numbers could hit 100,000 for the first time in its 21-year history as the industry’s biggest trade show continues to grow apace.

That would mean numbers will have doubled from the 51,000 that streamed through its doors 11 years after ago when it moved to Barcelona from Cannes.

The four-day event officially kicks off today (February 22) but the trend of handset manufacturers taking the wraps off their new devices early continued yesterday, with Samsung, Huawei and LG all making major announcements.
For the fourth year running MWC is taking place at the Fira Gran Via, one of the largest conferencing venues in Europe, measuring 240,000 square metres across eight exhibition halls.

Last year saw 94,000 visitors from 200 countries attend the show, with some 2,200 companies exhibiting and 3,800 members of the international press and media covering it. All figures are expected to rise marginally this week.


Mobile Is Everything
This year’s theme is ‘Mobile Is Everything’, with showcases covering a wide range of topics including the latest handset and wearable releases, the progress of 4G, future 5G innovations, Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile/online security.

The top ten exhibitors will be: Alcatel, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony, VM Ware and ZTE. This year will also see the return of Google to the exhibitor floor within the App Planet Stand in Hall 8.1, having been absent from the show in terms of stand presence for the past few years.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg returns for the third successive year. His keynote speech, which will take place at 18:00CET today (February 22) in a sell out auditorium in Hall 4, will see Zuckerberg discuss Facebook’s continued work on connecting the people of Africa to the internet.

Other keynote speakers include BT Group CEO Gavin Patterson, Ericsson president and CEO Hans Vestberg, Ford Motor Company president and CEO Mark Fields, GSMA chairman Jon Fredrik Baksaas, Huawei deputy chairman and rotating CEO Guo Ping, Telefónica executive chairman and CEO Cesar Alierta and Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao.

GSMA chief marketing officer Michael O'Hara
GSMA chief marketing officer Michael O’Hara

Biggest ever
Speaking exclusively to Mobile News prior to MWC, GSMA chief marketing officer Michael O’Hara said: “The official statement we have out is that we are expecting 95,000+ attendees but having tracked registration rates from way in advance, we are hopeful this will get to six figures.

“Whatever happens, this will be our biggest event ever. What we always try to do is to bring together leading CEOs from our industry and adjacent industries to meet and do real business. As long as we keep providing an environment for that to happen, then that certainly bodes well for the future.”

In light of the recent terror attacks, particularly following the one in Paris on November 13, security is being significantly increased this year to ensure the tens of thousands of employees are as safe as possible at Mobile World Congress.

There will be increased police presence, both outside the venue and towards the main entrances, with visitor passports being scanned for the first time when attendees collect their passes for the event. Spot checks will also be carried out.

Last November, the GSMA postponed the annual Mobile 360 conference in Brussels due to ongoing security concerns in the Belgian city, which at the time saw threat levels at their highest.

MWC 5Safety first

However, O’Hara claimed the number of registrations it received for MWC indicated people hadn’t been put off from attending and that the GSMA and Spanish authorities have received no information to suggest there will be any major problems.

“We never saw any concerns – the number of registrations from very early on didn’t reflect that at all,” he said. “We feel confident that people are definitely attending and there was never any talks around postponing or cancelling MWC.

“The situation in Brussels was quite serious at the time [of the GSMA] – the city was in lockdown and we had to make that decision. We are continuing to work closely with the police in Catalonia and Spain as a whole. We have a daily dialogue with them and would make decisions as appropriate if anything came to light.

“We have a peak period on Monday morning when we are trying to get 30,000 people through the doors as quickly as possible. We will do that as efficiently as we can while doing our best to ensure the safety of the event.”