Mobile World Congress 2017 preview

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The industry’s biggest trade show, expected to attract more than 101,000 visitors, kicks off on Monday. Mobile News looks ahead to the event

Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017 attendee numbers will exceed 100,000 in its 21-year history and break more records as the industry’s largest global trade show continues to accelerate.

Some 101,000 people attended last year – the first time it hit six figures – with the GSMA predicting this year’s number will exceed that.

It would once again mean that attendee numbers will have doubled from the 51,000 people that streamed through the doors in 2005 when the event moved from Cannes to Barcelona, a strong indication of how much the industry continues to grow apace across multiple market segments.

The annual four-day event officially begins today (February 27) but the trend of major handset manufacturers unveiling new devices continued throughout yesterday with Samsung, Huawei, LG and HMD Global – debuting their first Nokia-branded products – all making major announcements.

The likes of BlackBerry, Sony Mobile and Lenovo are also expected to make major announcements and unveil new devices  throughout the week. 

Mobile World Congress is taking place in the Fira Gran Via for the fifth successive year. It is one of the largest conferencing venues in Europe, measuring a massive 240,000 square metres and spreading across eight exhibition halls.

Last year broke more records, with attendees from 204 countries, some 2,200 companies exhibiting and 3,600 international members of the international print and broadcast media reporting on it. Those figures are expected to rise marginally this week. 

GSMA director general Mats Granryd is a keynote speaker at the event

This year’s agenda

The theme is ‘The Next Element’, with showcases covering a wide range of topics including the latest handset, tablet and wearable device releases, the continue evolution of 4G, incoming 5G innovations, the Internet of Things, mobile/online security, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

A number of global telecoms companies will again be exhibiting their latest products and services, including Cisco, Deutsche Telekom, Ford, HTC, Huawei, Intel, Lenovo, LG, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony, Telefónica, Verizon, Visa and Vodafone.

The GSMA Innovation City has been relocated to Hall 4, with partners including AT&T, Cisco Jasper, KT Corporation and Sierra Wireless.

This will span nearly 2,000 square metres, where visitors will be able to immerse themselves in technology-led experiences (from agriculture, home to office, and connected cars to global transport logistics) that illustrate how mobile-connected products and services are improving our everyday lives.

Keynote speakers include GSMA director general Mats Granryd, Huawei deputy chairman of the board and rotating CEO Eric Xu, Kaspersky Lab chairman and CEO Eugene Kaspersky, Nokia president and CEO Rajeev Suri, Orange chairman and CEO Stéphane Richard and Telefónica chairman and CEO José María Álvarez-Pallete López.

From a media and content perspective,  Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings, and Turner chairman and CEO John Martin will make their debuts, but Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who provided a keynote speech for three successive years, will not be returning.

This year the GSMA is predicting that this year’s MWC will contribute €465 million to the  economy and create 13,213 part-time jobs. From 2006 through to this year, the event has generated €3.9 billion to the economy and created more than 100,000 part-time jobs.

GSMA chief marketing officer Michael O’Hara

Breaking records

Speaking exclusively to Mobile News prior to the start of MWC, GSMA chief marketing officer Michael O’Hara said: “The show continues to go from strength-to-strength. We expect to beat the attendance numbers from previous years and this event will almost certainly set new records.

“The focus is to always get the absolute best speakers on stage during the four days.

“We continue to attract leaders who meet, engage and conduct business with each other and when you can achieve that, you form an extremely successful cycle.

“I used to be an exhibitor and when I see those people speaking and presenting, I know it’s really worthwhile. It’s also very beneficial for the media and to get engaged.

“Mobile World Congress is an evolution – we certainly don’t want to break something that is really strong. The reason it is successful is we attract the best people, and that really drives the rest of the event.”

Security at MWC will once again be stepped up to ensure the safety of the thousands of people attending over the four-day duration.

This is particularly important in light of terror attacks over recent months, such as in Nice last July and Berlin in December, where dozens of people were killed and hundreds injured.

Security tightened

The organisers have confirmed to Mobile News that there will be a “strong” police presence at both the Fira Gran Via and Fira Montjuic, as well as across the city; a modified outdoor perimeter around both venues; police identity checks, K9 units and scanners at both venues; and “permanent venue security improvements”.

Spain’s terror threat level, like the UK, remains at four but despite understandable fear being spread amongst people throughout the world, O’Hara is confident of the security measures in place for MWC and that it hasn’t deterred people from attending.

“You won’t see anything visibly different from last year. There is a lot of security on site, both visible and non-visible. We continue to work with security consultants, along with the city and state police.

“There will be two perimeters around the event where checks will be carried out. We worked through that system for the first time last year where people were required to provide passport information to gain entry to the venues, which worked out well for us.

“I certainly haven’t heard of people that are overly deterred by potential terror threats. We’re doing everything we can to ensure everyone is safe. It is a big event and a big city, but we feel very positive about the relationship we have with the police and the plan we have put in place.” 

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