In 2020 when the Mobile World Congress was cancelled with just weeks before the event was due to take place, is when reality of the pandemic really sank in and became uncomfortably palpable. Similarly, as next week sees one of the world’s biggest tech trade shows return albeit as a hybrid experience, with new devices and product teases from some of the world’s most well-known smartphone makers and technology companies, marks the start of a new more positive and hopeful era in Covid19 times.

This year’s edition will take place next week  from June 28 to July 1 in Barcelona, Spain, with over 1,000 companies displaying their products, some 700 planning to be physically present and about 300 in a virtual manner. Many technology companies and clients have announced they will not be attending the event physically, including Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, Nokia, and Xiaomi to mention a few. Also, this year we can expect a much lower attendance. About 25,000 people have registered to attend the congress, prompting the GSMA, the industry body that organizes MWC to estimate somewhere between 25,000 and 35,000 visitors, far from the over 100,000 guests that the international event used to host in previous editions. Nonetheless, we must rejoice in the fact that it is going ahead, and whilst it is a much more scaled down version, it is positive news for business, and for the technology industry.

But like pretty much all events in 2021, the shadow of the pandemic continues to loom large, and reduced attendance is fueled by new safety measures. This includes everyone in the venue having a negative test result within the past 72 hours, temperature checks on entry, huge disinfection procedures carried out through all the days, as well as the normal measures we have all become so accustomed to, the use of surgical masks and hand sanitizers everywhere. Cognizant of this diminished attendance, the GSMA has sought alternative ways to boost visitor numbers, such as offering cheap tickets to local Spanish businesses as part of the Give To and Get Back initiative.  In addition, Spanish residents working in one of 11 key industries, including automotive, media, finance, and manufacturing, can buy an MWC21 Discovery Pass for €21.

Key themes we can expect this year both from companies exhibiting and launching virtual press conferences, will be focused on new devices from smart phone manufacturers, but a key focus will really be 5G, as 5G is now available in so many countries. Whilst companies like Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm are all set to detail their 5G platforms, a real focus this year will be cloud and 5G. There are streams like Cloud meets telecom: 5G spread and AI integration which are featured heavily in the agenda at MWC 2021. Not surprising, considering during lockdown technology has really facilitated remote working and business continuity. Companies that are exhibiting like Telefónica and Orange for example, will have a special focus on showcasing 5G applications, 5G connected industry cases, as well as examples of how cloud and 5G have worked hand in hand in helping companies embrace digital transformation during the pandemic. Another theme worth mentioning is also sustainability, there will be a lot of focus on technology, from IoT sensors and monitoring technology to AI powered applications, all centered on how these technologies can help us all take better care of the planet.

Even if attendance is reduced, and the event has a hybrid format, we can all rest assured that many of the world´s technology companies will use the coming week as an opportunity to showcase upcoming technology developments, new products and much more. MWC2021 has always been a focal point for the technology industry, and for now, it seems it will continue to be so.

H+K will be reporting from the event, with many of our clients participating both virtually and physically at the event, and during the course of next week we will be providing daily round ups from the event.