Behind the numbers at MWC
Running exhibitions is always about the numbers and every year we hear those numbers from the GSMA as they relate to Mobile World Congress. MWC 2016 was a record year as the figures outlined below attest:
- 101,000 attendees, 5,000 of whom were CEOs, from 204 countries
- 2,200 companies exhibiting across 110,000 square metres of exhibition space (this is why your feet hurt)
- 3,600 journalists and analysts (this is why any sensible PR consultant starts circuit training at least two months prior)
Interestingly the GSMA’s independent economic analysis indicates that the event contributed more than €460 million to the local economy and generated 13,000 part-time jobs. Little wonder that Barcelona bid so hard to keep the event the last time a change was mooted.
We thought it might be interesting to look behind some of the raw numbers to see what they reveal. Let’s start with those pesky journalists and analysts (we love ‘em really) and a breakdown of which countries they came from in 2016.
This is a ‘home game’ for Spain and so although there are some very influential Spanish journalists attending the event, the total number is an aberration. The fact is that, if you’re a Spanish journalist based anywhere near Barcelona you are going to drop in at the Fira, even if it’s just to look around, so the number far exceeds what it might be if the event was hosted elsewhere. Next on the list are UK and US journalists and they are likely to be some of the busiest at the show – English language media in the mobile sector, like no other, tends to ‘bleed’ into every other market and so a good proportion of those 5,000 CEOs will be looking to meet at least some of the native English speakers.
Then we have journalists from Germany and Italy. The contingent from Germany doesn’t surprise me – it’s a highly developed mobile and tech. market with a well organised and active media industry but I’m not sure Italy really compares. Despite that, the number of Italian journalists always seems to be significant even if the coverage that results rarely makes its way beyond the country’s borders.
There’s a very long list, from another fifty countries, below those shown in the chart but whatever their numbers and position on the list, you can’t assume they can be ignored. If you’re interested in doing deals in Ecuador, it may well be worth talking to the one journalist that attended (if you can find him or her).
A league of nations
Next we looked at a geographic breakdown of the companies registered to attend in 2017 and it doesn’t take long for you to figure out which countries are the powerhouses of the mobile sector.
Once again, Spain’s position is probably an aberration – unsurprisingly, you’ll find quite a lot of generalist service companies featuring amongst that country’s MWC registered companies. The countries that dominate are the United States, China and the United Kingdom and that won’t shock anyone with some knowledge of the mobile industry. The US and UK have a long history in mobile technologies, content and services and whilst China might have started later in the development cycle, it’s a country that plays the hard ball version of catch up.
For many years we saw Chinese companies concentrating on their (substantial) home market but that is no longer the case and if I could give one piece of advice to anyone thinking about working in the mobile industry now, it would be to learn Mandarin and accustom yourself with the way the Chinese do business.
The country that sometimes surprises those outside the industry is Israel. It’s number five on the list of registrations which may seem surprising for such a small region. It shouldn’t be, telecommunications expertise abounds and in fact telecommunications equipment is one of the country’s major export products.
Finally we examined a breakdown of the various products and solutions those companies registered for MWC 2017 are planning to promote. If ever there was a confirmation of the changing face of MWC this is the chart that does it.
Those of us that have been attending MWC for years can’t have failed to notice some fundamental shifts. If this chart was compiled for any of the Canne hosted MWCs, certain of the categories that feature now in the top 20 wouldn’t exist, and others would struggle to make the top 100. Today we see significant representation of ‘in-building systems’, ‘tablet devices’ and ‘cloud services’ – none of which would have made the list in 2006, the last year France hosted the event.
The three product categories you should note are ‘consumer electronics’, ‘mobile advertising and marketing’ and ‘IoT / M2M’. They are all categories that really stood out this year at the Fira and they provide a good indication of where many in the industry are focussing their attention.
What the top 20 list doesn’t reveal is the dramatic change in the power structure within the industry over the last ten years. MWC was once completely dominated by tier one operators, handset brands and network equipment manufacturers. Today, though each of those is still important, it’s arguable that the global internet brands have greater influence on the future direction of the industry. That’s why you’ll see people like John Hanke, CEO of Niantic, listed as keynote speaker in 2017. Although handset launches got some people out of bed this year it was an augmented reality game published by Niantic called Pokémon Go that got billions moving.
See you there
Whatever it is that ‘floats your boat’ in the mobile industry, there’s no doubt that you’ll find it at MWC. It remains the premier event in the sector and no matter how many grumbles there are about the cost of exhibiting, you have to hand it to the GSMA. They produce a compelling event and manage to keep it relevant year after year.