MWC is back, just – is this a new normal or will it be real normal next year?

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MWC is in the news but not for the reasons the organisers would like. In fact, reviews are very mixed, and real news seems scarce.

Jouko Ahvenainen was nicely surprised, although he admitted his expectations were low to start with. It was easy to get into the event, and technology and safety seemed to work well. He enjoyed the smaller crowds because this meant that he could have a proper conversation with the people on the stands.

Richard Windsor, on the other hand, was anything but impressed. In fact, he almost forgot the event was happening, as there was so little news.

The press releases from MWC, or Mobile World, read as if the writer was sporting a fixed grin, with the CEO of the GSMA, Mats Granryd, being upbeat and glad that “we are back to business, back to Barcelona and back together.” But, unfortunately, the truth is that MWC may be back but only at a third of its capacity.

The topics, too, seemed oddly the same, a sort of buzzword fest that was a little pale. During the MWC keynotes, Telefonica CEO Jose-Maria Alvarez-Pallete said. “Data cannot be extricated without compensation – it’s called digital dignity. I have a right to know what my data is worth.” And so, at least we have a new buzzword. In fact, expect an article about digital indignity any day now.

Then Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges talked about the scandal of the ‘OTT’ players driving the majority of the traffic to the internet and giving nothing back. Wait, that was a hot topic at MWC 2014, surely. It just seems we still don’t have an answer.

Social media, the traffic it generates and the money it makes is, of course, an issue. But it is something that needs to be addressed at the highest levels of government, so a talk at MWC is not going to change that world.

Next year might be different, MWC might be back where it was in 2019. It seems, though, that Richard Windsor will not be there. Instead, he will be at CES.

On reflection, this year’s MWC has produced mixed results. It was brave (and probably necessary, financially) to go ahead with the physical event, but time will tell whether the show recovers completely.

A final thought: for years now, we have been saying that MWC is too big. Vendors dread it, and the memories of the grey, haunted, exhausted faces used to tell their own tale of the 75 meetings in two days. It might be, therefore, that an audience of 30,000 makes sense. Then, like Jouko, you can have useful conversations, spend time on the stands you want to visit, listen to interesting speakers and network happily. All without being crushed in a mob of 100,000 bodies.

On balance, this new normal might work well for MWC. Meanwhile, we will leave working out how to make money from that model with the GSMA.

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