MWC Barcelona – That was the week that was

MWC Barcelona – That was the week that was After a hectic 4 days at the Mobile World Congress, it’s always good to take a step back and digest the news and activities of the week. Being immersed in the show itself it’s hard to fully appreciate what’s going on outside of your own exhibition activities, and it seems that this year, more than any other year I can recall, MWC news was hitting the main international news channels with stations including Sky News and the BBC covering the event.

Of course it’s always the devices that grab the main headlines, with the launch of many new handsets, tablets and the unveiling of the first ‘3D phone’. With such a focus on the devices, it’s still puzzling why Apple stays away from the event, and in their absence much of the focus centred on Windows Phone, courtesy of the Nokia-Microsoft alliance, and Android. In fact, the Android stand arguably stole the show with its distinctive green branding, the array of demo pods showcasing new applications, and the opportunity to have your photo taken on the short slide connecting the two floors. It’s funny, but put the same slide in a theme park and it would only appeal to 3 year olds. However, amongst the monster stands of Hall 8, it was the real crowd-pleaser and shows that with Android, Google have really captured the imagination of the industry.
 
In the conference itself, it’s clear that the tide has changed too. Five years ago, the keynote speeches were delivered by executives of the leading Tier 1 operators. Not anymore. This year it was speakers from the likes of Google and Twitter who were drawing the crowds.
 
Whilst the glamour of the devices draws much of the attention, there was a really positive atmosphere for the whole event with record attendance in excess of 60,000 people and more than 1,400 exhibitors covering the full telecommunications ecosystem. Though it is dominated by ‘mobile’ activities, the event is no longer just for the mobile sector. At the Cerillion stand we met with the full spectrum of communications services providers including mobile, fixed, cable and satellite players, many of whom are pursuing some form of convergence, which remains a very strong theme for the industry.
 
We had our busiest show ever, with a continuous stream of meetings and demos with customers, prospects, partners and analysts ensuring there was little time even to digest the obligatory tortilla baguette for lunch. BSS/OSS solutions are very much in-demand with enquiries covering everything from multi-service convergence and M2M services, to charging and policy management, and the customer experience. The growth in data services and the resulting capacity crunch was once again high up the agenda, with many exhibitors also experiencing the MWC’s very own capacity crunch with 10,000+ people trying to squeeze through one 3m wide exit from the site on the Monday evening.
 
The Cerillion Tapas Bar was also in full swing on both the Tuesday and Wednesday nights providing an informal setting for networking with people across the BSS/OSS industry. A selection of photos from the Tapas Bar and the rest of the event can be viewed on our Facebook page here.
 
As the week in Barcelona wound down to a close, the conversations inevitably turned to the future location of the event with 4 cities shortlisted to become the GSMA’s ‘Mobile World Capital’ and host to the Mobile World Congress from 2013 to 2017. Current hosts Barcelona are fighting it out with Milan, Munich and Paris for the opportunity to host this industry showcase, but I for one will be hoping it stays in Barcelona. Sure, in the first year (2006) there were teething troubles in Barcelona and crime has been a problem, but the exhibition halls and facilities are excellent, the National Palace and fountains provide a worthy backdrop to the industry’s showpiece event and the city’s metro system makes for easy access to and from the event.
 
The ‘supersize’ exhibition stands currently in Hall 8 will always provide a draw no matter the venue. However, for the small and mid-sized exhibitors who make up the majority of the show, consistency of position in the exhibition hall is vital. In Barcelona, we have an established spot in Hall 2 where our customers know they can find us. The prospect of choosing a new stand position in a new venue fills me with dread as it will be something of a lottery finding the best hall locations. The decision on the new host city will be announced this summer and fingers crossed we will be staying in Barcelona.
 
In the meantime, the annual cycle of preparing for the next Mobile World Congress begins, except this time the dates are changing with the event moving back by a couple of weeks to 27th February – 1st March 2012. On the one hand this is good, because for the first time in many years I can spend Valentine’s Day with my wife; but on the other, I can’t help but feeling that the industry will spin its wheels for another two weeks at the start of the year with so much attention focused on the Mobile World Congress.
 
Let us know your experiences from MWC 2011 and your views on the future of the event by posting comments below.