Barcelona Mobile Kicks Off: The Challenge of Returning to Normalcy Before Entering the Metaverse | Economy

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The World Mobile Congress will open its doors in Barcelona this Monday with the challenge of returning to normality after the coronavirus disaster, and once again being an international benchmark for technology and business. After suspending the 2020 edition at the dawn of the outbreak of the pandemic, and experiencing a decaffeinated and almost in line Last year, the Mobile World Congress (MWC 2022) aspired to save its past splendor, with the physical presence of thousands of executives and visitors filling the stands of the Gran Vía de la Fira and the hotels and restaurants of the capital. Catalan.

Neither 5G, nor artificial intelligence, nor even the metaverse will be the protagonists of this Mobile since, despite the fact that its official motto is “Connectivity unleashed”, the organizers, companies and administrations involved only repeat one word: “regular” .

To begin with, the MWC 2022 returns to its usual dates (from February 28 to March 3), since last year it was to be held in the summer. However, the main obsession is that attendance is coming back. 60,000 visitors are expected, according to the GSMA, the association of operators which organizes the event, twice as many as during the last edition, but far from the 110,000 who met in 2019. With an economic impact of 240 million, half of the 500 million generated before the pandemic. Prices are also retrieved. The passes range from 769 to 4,614 euros.

For this presence, the Gran Vía site of the Fira de Barcelona in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat which hosts the MWC 2022 will fill its seven pavilions, with 1,500 exhibitors, and will have more than 1,000 speakers, 95% of whom will speak in front of face, according to the GSMA. A presence that will be marked by strict health rules, being compulsory to show a covid passport, a certificate of success in the disease or a negative test. The use of FFP2 masks is also mandatory.

“At MWC 2022, we will provide a platform for the debates that define society’s relationship with technology, and ultimately we will be where business is done,” summarized John Hoffman, CEO of the GSMA.

Advertising poster near the Fira de Barcelona.
Quique Garcia (EFE)

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pending renewal

The administrations concerned (Barcelona City Council, Generalitat de Catalunya, Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Fira de Barcelona) also want to help create a favorable environment around the MWC. Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau set aside past hostility towards the visitors Mobile attracts and mass tourism in general, and promised greater vigilance in the streets and around Gran Vía, because insecurity is one of the main concerns of the GSMA.

We must not forget that Barcelona is playing for the renewal of the Congress for the coming years. In July 2015, the last major contract was signed to hold the MWC in this city between 2018 and 2023. An agreement which is now intended to be repeated, even if it does not seem very conceivable that the negotiations which will take place during of the Congress authorizes the announcement of an imminent agreement as the culmination of this year’s edition, as intended by the city council.

Undoubtedly, in these negotiations, the Executive Chairman of Telefónica, José María Álvarez-Pallete, who has just been elected as the new Chairman of the Board of the GSMA, will have a special role until at least 2022. The Spanish operator has been one of the main supporters of the MWC and in this edition it recovers space in the Fira, with a large deployment of managers and meetings with investors. Its stand will be nearly 1,000 square meters and will have a digital replica in the metaverse, where it will showcase its value propositions and digital transformation. Vodafone will also have a strong presence in Congress.

On the technological level, the key word of MWC 22 will be the metaverse, this parallel and virtual universe in which we will live tomorrow, and in which it will be possible to interact with real sensations as in the physical world, both to be the protagonist of a video game to go to the office. In fact, the metaverse market is expected to reach $814 billion by 2028, according to Accenture. According to their data, in 2021 companies doubled their commitment to virtual and augmented reality, with 88% of global organizations investing in technologies to create virtual environments. However, for the metaverse to arrive in our daily lives, it will be necessary to wait a few years, especially in a country like Spain where the citizens – their physical presence at the counters is cut under the pretext of covid-19 – sometimes have a difficult relationship with the companies, banks and the Administration because the channels in line they don’t always work properly.

In addition, in this call, traditional spaces are recovered such as the Spanish pavilion, with 35 exhibiting companies, the role of women and their inclusion in technology (Diversity4Tech), in verticals (IndustryCity) and the startup forum (4YFN ). The one that won’t be Russia whose flag was canceled by the GSMA in condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine.

Despite the efforts of the organizers, there will be less glamor than in the pre-pandemic editions. No one should arrive technology star who used to go to Barcelona, ​​like the bosses of Google, Facebook or Microsoft.

In the institutional part, King Felipe VI will attend the gala dinner this Sunday as usual, a presence that will be used by the independence parties, now in the government of the Generalitat, to make their demands known. The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, will accompany the monarch during the dinner and will participate in the official opening of the MWC on Monday.

Nor will there be any big presentations of smart phones or other devices. Big companies like Samsung, which just showed off its star of the year (Galaxy S22), have long since ceased to have a benchmark for their tech premieres at MWC. The one that encouraged Congress the most is Huawei. The Chinese brand has always boasted of having the largest stand at the show, but the American veto of its 5G networks and that of Google to install the Android operating system on its mobiles, left the Chinese manufacturer in the background. . Overall, successful brands such as Xiaomi and Oppo, and second flagships such as Realme, Honor or Poco, will be showcasing devices over this weekend before the event officially begins. Physical absences are much lower than last year. Only Sony, Lenovo and Asus declined the face-to-face visit.

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