MWC 2022: Tech companies flock to Spanish show in shadow of war with Russia

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BARCELONA (AFP, REUTERS) – One of the tech industry’s biggest annual gatherings is due to kick off in the Spanish city of Barcelona on Monday (February 28) in the shadow of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Mobile World Congress (MWC), where smartphone and telecommunications companies showcase their latest products and unveil their strategic visions, is expected to welcome more than 40,000 guests over its four days.

Organizers hope to return to a large-scale event after two years of disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hampered preparations for this year’s edition, with organizers forced to remove the country’s pavilion. They also condemned Friday’s invasion.

Industry body GSMA, which organizes the annual event, said in a statement that it complies with all sanctions and policies regarding Russia. He confirmed that Russian companies may still be able to participate.

But a few Russian companies will not be able to attend the event due to economic sanctions, GSMA chief executive John Hoffman said in an interview, adding that it was unclear which companies would be affected.

The invasion has raised wider concerns, with industry weighing sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and Europe and a likely shortage of key raw materials caused by the conflict.

The woes of the pandemic

MWC was canceled at the last minute in 2020 as the pandemic spread from China to Europe, and last year’s edition was scaled back significantly.

The pandemic continues to cast its shadow with big names like Sony, Asus and Lenovo pulling out or “virtually” participating.

But organizers are optimistic, with GSMA chief executive Mats Granryd saying 95% of speakers will be in Barcelona.

Mr. Constanti Serrallonga, General Manager of Fira de Barcelona, ​​the venue of the event, said: “Construction started a week ago and is progressing at a good pace. We expect to see an edition that will almost look like to a pre-pandemic event.”

The invasion of Ukraine did not result in significant MWC-related hotel cancellations in Barcelona, ​​with the exception of some representatives from Eastern European countries, tourism website Hosteltur reported. .

Tech giants confirming their presence include smartphone giant Samsung, as well as Nokia, Ericsson, Google, Huawei and Verizon.

This year’s event focuses on the rise of 5G, the opportunities offered by the Internet of Things (IoT), the metaverse and the impact of technology on the environment.

Few new products are expected to be unveiled by the major players, many of whom showed off their latest releases in the weeks leading up to the meet.

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