"We're not moving anywhere, and that includes Madrid." These were the words of John Hoffman, head of the organization behind the Mobile World Congress (MWC), the world's largest mobile industry gathering, coming up in Barcelona from February 24th to 27th. Questioned about the threats from Madrid regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, to take the MWC to the Spanish capital, Hoffman stated that it simply wasn't going to happen.
Without attributing excessive importance to the matter, Hoffman reaffirmed the MWC's commitment to Barcelona: "Until 2023 we have a contract with the Barcelona Trade Fair and here we stay. Until 2023 and as long as it suits". With his usual ironic tone, the CEO of the GSMA organizing body for the MWC jumped into the controversy raised by the Madrid president, without waiting for press questions. In fact, he finished his presentation for this year's edition by saying, "Finally, I wanted to talk to you about the future of the Mobile World Congress, but they tell me it's already been announced. Now can you see that we're moving to Madrid?" he asked, laughing.
"I don't want to offend anyone, but I really don't know where the press gets these things at times. Why didn't you call me? I would have told you clearly, we're not going anywhere!" Such a conclusive statement puts paid to any hopes the Spanish capital might have had. "Since 2006 we've been in Barcelona and have been very happy," Hoffman explained, leaving the door open for the Catalan capital beyond 2023: "There's been no debate involving Madrid or anywhere else in the world" as an alternative to Barcelona, he said.
"And do you have plans or studies with regard to Barcelona in the future? Would you like to stay there beyond 2023?" asked a journalist. To that, Hoffman asked, "How many of you would like to stay in Barcelona?" Most of those in the room raised their hands. Hoffman chuckled, "Look, this is the only study I have!"
MWC20: Limitless Intelligent Connectivity
This year's Mobile World Congress, a month away, has several new features. Under the slogan "Limitless Intelligent Connectivity", this year's fair is committed to the impending rollout of 5G in cities and as a new basis for everyday living and relating. In addition this year, starring roles at the MWC will be played by artificial intelligence (AI), the so-called Industry X, and the application of efficiency and sustainability to technology.
One of the biggest innovations for 2020 is called the xside space, the result of an MWC alliance with the Sonar music festival and the 4YFN business platform, which will mix the music of the moment with lectures and interactive digital art installations, debates, and even gastronomic events. Xside will take place at the Montjuïc venue from 9am to 11 at night.
This year more than 110,000 people are expected to attend the Mobile World Congress, a figure similar to last year's record-breaking total. With 240,000 square metres of exhibition space, technology giants such as Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Lenovo, Intel and Telefonica taking part, and government delegations from more than 179 countries, "MWC 2020 will be historic," as said Hoffman said at the beginning of the congress presentation.
The MWC has organized a programme with 960 speakers, but only 30% of them are women. Hoffman has admitted that they are far from gender parity, and even more so when it is considered that only one in every four of those attending is a woman. He said they were working "diligently" to "change" this trend.