It was always a big ask to stage a huge international physical event at a time when the Covid pandemic is still raging in many parts of the world. Even those permitted to enter Spain were forced to jump through multiple hoops, with the prospect of being quarantined when they got home at the end of it. Those that did turn up deserve recognition for running the sanitary gauntlet. Perhaps the prospect of seeing Jon Bon Jovi persuaded them.
In the end around 20,000 people attended in person, according to the GSMA. They were hoping for 30-50k, but even the lower end of that always seemed like a stretch target. On the other hand there were “around 100,000 unique virtual and daily viewers on MWC21 and partner platforms,” according to the announcement.
“I am proud of the team for delivering a high-quality event in an extraordinarily complex environment,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “The pandemic has indelibly changed how we gather. We had to develop new health and safety protocols and a hybrid platform but, we did it. It was only possible because of a community of support for which I am very grateful. I cannot tell you how delighted I am to be back and, I’m encouraged that thousands more joined us virtually. MWC21 created momentum and is helping us reimagine what events look like. Bring on MWC22.”
Next year’s event is scheduled for the customary 28 February and a bunch of companies, including Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung have said they plan to exhibit. Then again they said that this year and last, until they pulled out. Intriguingly, while ZTE is on the list of companies who said they’ll make an appearance, Huawei isn’t.
“We have a new appreciation for the value of human connection and, for me, being together again at MWC21 in Barcelona has been inspiring,” said John Hoffman, GSMA CEO. “Last week we reignited business by bringing together the mobile and adjacent vertical ecosystems at MWC21 in a safe and healthy environment. The dynamism of global circumstances meant that we had to evaluate and re-invent operational processes in partnership with our teams to make MWC a reality. I’m proud of the team and profoundly grateful for everyone who played a role in bringing the industry back together again.”
Surely the world will more or less be back to normal next year. It will be interesting to see what measures over-and-above those mandated by the Spanish government the GSMA chooses to impose on attendees. Having set up the infrastructure last week it may be tempted to continue with on-site testing and insist on masks being worn. We believe that would be a mistake as it would significantly diminish the experience for minimal reward, assuming attendees will have been vaccinated, and may result in another disappointing turnout.