Mobile World Congress
|Date(s)||28 June – 01 July 2021|
|Venue||Fira de Barcelona Gran Via|
|Inaugurated||1987(as GSM World Congress)|
The event is held in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain at the Fira de Barcelona Gran Via, usually in February or early-March. It is attended primarily by device manufacturers, network equipment providers, representatives of wireless carriers, and the press, among others. Its annual attendance is generally around 100,000 people, while mobile phone manufacturers often use the conference to unveil upcoming devices.
GSMA has extended the MWC brand to two other trade shows in Shanghai, China (MWC Shanghai) and Los Angeles, United States (MWC Los Angeles, formerly MWC Americas), but the brand remains most synonymous with the Barcelona event.
The name of the event has evolved over the years. The origin of the event traces back to a business conference on "Pan Europe Digital Cellular Radio" (the original working name of the GSM mobile system) held in Brussels in 1987.
The name "GSM World Congress" was first used in 1990 when the event was held in Rome. For the next few years the event moved to a new city each time, passing through Nice, Berlin, Lisbon, Athens, and Madrid, before setting in 1996 in Cannes. The event was held in Cannes for 10 consecutive years, with the name evolving to 3GSM World Congress from 2003.
In 2006, the event moved to Barcelona, held at the Fira de Barcelona Montjuïc, with the name Mobile World Congress first used for the 2008 event. In 2011, GSMA announced a long-term deal to continue hosting the event in Barcelona through 2023.
Starting in 2013, Mobile World Congress has been held at the Fira de Barcelona Gran Via.
In February 2020, a large number of vendors announced plans to withdraw from the then-upcoming show, tentatively scheduled for 24–27 February, due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic (which are magnified by the strong Chinese presence in the telecom industry). This included major vendors and operators such as Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Intel, LG, Nokia, STMicroelectronics, Vivo, and Vodafone. On 11 February 2020, it was reported that GSMA was considering cancelling the event entirely; health measures were already to be instituted, including a requirement for Chinese attendees to undergo a two-week quarantine prior to the event, as well as body temperature checks of attendees. Chinese vendor Huawei, as well as Samsung, announced plans to remain with a reduced presence, with Huawei primarily sending its European executives only. On 12 February 2020, GSMA CEO John Hoffman announced that MWC 2020 had been cancelled, stating that the event had become "impossible" to host under these conditions.
In April 2020, it was announced that Barcelona will continue hosting the event until 2024 as a consequence of cancellation of MWC 2020.
As of 17 March 2021, GSMA states the 2021 edition will still proceed with a controlled maximum attendees of 50,000. So far, at least 10 large exhibitors have announced their withdrawal including Ericsson, Nokia, Facebook, Sony and Cisco. BT was the first Tier 1 telco to announce their withdrawal.
In 2016, CTIA announced a partnership with GSMA to replace its annual Super Mobility trade show for the U.S. wireless industry with Mobile World Congress Americas, beginning 2017. The event was first held in San Francisco, before moving to Los Angeles for 2018.
Samsung Gear VR during Mobile World Congress 2016
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