What You Missed at Mobile World Congress 2024

By: Thomas Board, Pipeline

Pipeline covered Mobile World Congress (MWC) for the tenth year, attending sessions and meeting with industry innovators arrayed across the extensive exhibit halls. MWC’s website had boldly proclaimed “miss out on Mobile World Congress Barcelona, miss out on the next 12 months [of the industry’s future].” Pipeline walked the length and breadth of the show floor, filled our diaries with exclusive interviews, and attended every talk we deemed noteworthy from the eclectic agenda with an eye on finding out if MWC’s assertion was actually true. In our estimation it was pretty much spot on. If you didn’t attend MWC 2024 yourself, here’s an encapsulation of what you missed, and peak into the future.

MWC Barcelona is the largest expo covering the connectivity ecosystem. The annual event is set in late February, well into Q1, featuring and impressive exhibitor list and speaker lineup. The gargantuan, eight-hall Fira de Barcelona is the setting for MWC, situated only five miles away from the iconic (yet infamously unfinished) La Sagrada Familia. This gives attendees hundreds of housing options within the beautiful Mediterranean city to choose from. Still, the MWC journey is hardly a walk in the park. With over 100,000 industry members from the world over descending at once on the city, the streets regularly slow to gridlock, and one must allot ample time for breakfast and for booking that Uber simply to get to the venue on time. Once you finally arrive you have formidable security checkpoints to clear, cloakrooms to queue for, and at last you wade into and do your best to navigate the sea of stressed executives bustling about the venue.

Figure 1 - The hustle and bustle of Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2024 as participants
scurry to their scheduled locations.

We chose to stay in Sant Boi, a smaller city outside the hustle and bustle of central Barcelona. This turned out to be an amenable choice for our purposes – close to a metro station with a direct route to the event and no need to jostle for space with other event attendees, most of whom appeared to have opted to stay in the big city. Admittedly, our location was not optimal for partaking in post-event networking activities in chic downtown Barcelona. But of course our purpose for attending was otherwise. All we needed was a comfortable retreat where we could grab quick bite, type up our notes, and post the most recent and salient MWC news.

The tremendous scale of MWC 2024 was strikingly evident from the moment we entered the Fira, particularly in comparison to smaller industry events such as DTW Ignite. Imagine the famous Shibuya crossing in Japan, but even more crowded with people, all of them clad in suits and waving bright, shiny things to try to catch your attention, and many of them noticeably wanting in both courtesy and spatial awareness. You had better keep a watchful eye on your surroundings, as people will walk straight into you. A lot.

Prominent signs on the walls at MWC 2024 touted this year’s event as being carbon neutral. We couldn’t help but wonder if the organizers had considered the host of flights so many people from around the world would take to attend, or the spike in vehicle emissions that necessarily would ensue such a large influx of people. Notably, however, the show felt like it had finally recovered from the effects of the global pandemic. And for the first time, non-telco participants appeared to outnumber the telco participants, supporting the feeling that the industry is finally transforming under an umbrella of broader technical innovation. The “Telco to Techco” mantra was repeated in practically every talk at last year’s Digital Transformation World at Copenhagen, but we didn’t hear it mentioned once at MWC 2024, implying that it may be coming to fruition. This was music to our ears, as Pipeline has focused on the convergence of enterprise and communication technologies for well over a decade and it seems the industry is finally catching up. In fact, in his opening keynote, GSMA Director General Mats Granryd stated that for the first time non-telecom companies outnumbered telecom companies at the event. This was also noticed in the session topics and speaking agenda, as there was wide variety on AI, diversity, and other themes – far less on mobile technology, which you think would be predominant at a “Mobile World Congress.”

The exhibits appeared to be bigger and better than ever, with several of the “usual suspects” occupying their preferred spots. Huawei seemed to pretty much own Hall 1 and created a vast ecosystem of its own. Most of the access to its exhibit was restricted to other vendors, competitors, and even members of the press, thereby denying potential customers, for some reason unclear to us, a vision of the company's


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