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MWC Attendance Hits 88,500 but Still Below Pre-COVID Levels

The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was a success this year, with large numbers of people returning for the first time since 2019, said GSMA Ltd. CEO John Hoffman during a session Thursday, the conference's final day. GSMA reported attendance…

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of 88,500, from 202 countries and territories. That’s fewer than the 109,000 reported in 2019 but up from 61,000 last year. Hoffman noted MWC canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19, the first major event hit by the pandemic: “We didn’t know what [the virus] was. It wasn’t supposedly in Europe yet, but it was.” Speakers noted the conference honored Marty Cooper, the father of the cellphone, who made the first cellular call 50 years ago next month. “We’re looking at the past because we want to see how far we’ve come, but also we want to see the velocity and speed of going to the future,” said Zina Jarrahi Cinker, director general of Matter, an international think tank. MWC needs to offer more space next year, she said, saying hundreds of people wanted to get into events on quantum computing and frontier technologies, but “they had only capacity for 30 and 40." People “have done more deals, met with more people than ever before,” said Lara Dewar, GSMA chief marketing officer. “As digital technologies continue to develop, there is new excitement in the air that MWC captured so well,” said GSMA Director General Mats Granryd: “The transition to Web 3.0 will trigger a new explosion in network traffic, and it is critical that we work together to prepare.” 5G is "mainstream now; it’s no longer the new boy on the block,” said Adrian Dodd, head-GSMA Services, on a second panel. Sustainability “is on everybody’s lips,” he said: “That means devices are lasting much longer on the networks, which has a set of challenges. … More and more we’re going to see older devices with lower capabilities, younger devices with higher capabilities.” With devices lasting longer, trade-in programs are becoming more important, he said. 5G has “only just started,” despite all the discussion at MWC about 6G, said Barney Stinton, GSMA head-membership.