Sunday, 04 December 2016

MWC: The edge of reason

By Mary Lennighan, Total Telecom
Friday 27 February 15

As most of the known world heads off to Barcelona, we ask whether scale means a great buzz or missing out on innovation.

I'm reluctant to guess how many emails I deleted without reading and how many phonecalls I sent straight to voicemail in the past few weeks simply because they related to next week's Mobile World Congress. And honestly, I feel like I'm missing out. Admittedly, in some cases saying "sorry, my schedule is full" is a handy excuse to avoid a meeting that promises to be about as fun as a root canal…

I'm reluctant to guess how many emails I deleted without reading and how many phonecalls I sent straight to voicemail in the past few weeks simply because they related to next week's Mobile World Congress.

And honestly, I feel like I'm missing out.

Admittedly, in some cases saying "sorry, my schedule is full" is a handy excuse to avoid a meeting that promises to be about as fun as a root canal. But a lot of the time it means skipping over something genuinely innovative on the off-chance one of the big mobile operator CEOs makes a groundbreaking announcement in their keynote address, rather than complaining about the regulatory environment in the EU, as usual.

Sadly, if you're a small company doing something interesting in the mobile space, Barcelona in early March is no longer the place to make your mark.

We've all been saying it for a number of years: Mobile World Congress has grown too big. Last year the show claimed 85,000 attendees and 1,800 exhibitors covering 98,000 square metres of floor space.

This year we're on 'The Edge of Innovation', according to the GSMA's theme for the event. However, if last year's numbers are replicated those of us in the telecoms press desperately trying to cover all the news and discussion from the show might well find ourselves on the edge of insanity. Goodbye to worn-out shoe leather and altercations with press room seat-savers; hello padded cell.

Last year Deutsche Telekom's board member for Europe Claudia Nemat suggested a rebrand to Communication World Congress, pointing out that convergence is now real. With the growing presence of connected devices, cars, clothing and so on, maybe we don't even need the 'Communication' part.

There is, of course, a massive upside...and not just for Catalonia hotel owners. In this industry we're always extolling the virtues of scale, and Mobile World Congress has that in spades.

Bringing together so many representatives of the telecoms space in one place creates an amazing buzz. And if you listen very hard above the noise from the show floor, you might even learn something.

This year, as usual, the likes of Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia and Microsoft will have a big presence and a string of news announcements at the event, and we're expecting smartphone news from HTC, Samsung and Mozilla, amongst others. And Cisco's John Chambers will doubtless have something quotable to say to the press.

We're looking forward to hearing from European Commissioner Günther Oettinger, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. We'll also bring you comment from the big operators, including Ooredoo, Orange, Telefonica, Telekom Austria, Telenor, TeliaSonera and SK Telecom, to name but a few.

Oh, and we'll do our best to check out what the little guys are up to as well.

So pack your straitjacket and your tapas spoon (it could be a thing) and make a beeline for sunny Spain. We'll see you out there.

Total Telecom will provide a constantly updated news service from Mobile World Congress 2015, starting on Sunday. Look for the logo at www.totaltele.com.

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