MWC Barcelona didn’t happen; what happened instead?

On February 12th 2020, roughly one week before most of the press and technology industry were set to leave for Barcelona, the GSMA announced that they were cancelling MWC 2020 tr over continued concerns around the spread of COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus).The news hit particularly hard because MWC has long been the biggest and most impactful event of the global telecoms and tech industry calendar.

MWC’s cancellation has resulted in tech companies with products to launch but without a physical stage to do so. With news of the cancellation ricocheting around the world, a flurry of press releases and webcasts were designed to replace planned in-person gatherings. Despite the trade show not going ahead, many of the industry’s biggest brands have still announced new products and components. But have releases been as successful without the platform of MWC?

Is anything still happening in Barcelona this year?

Officially, no. Unofficially … kind of.

Some tech summits across Europe are ploughing ahead, despite ongoing concerns about the coronavirus.

Entrepreneurs announced a spinoff tech event in Barcelona called Tech Spirit within 24 hours of MWC, which had an impressive turnout.

One tech conference in Israel, which had 23,000 registered attendees, took place the day after MWC was officially cancelled.  OurCrowd Summit hosted thousands of tech enthusiasts in Jerusalem last week, albeit without hundreds of Chinese ticket holders who were unable to travel.

Jon Medved, the CEO and Founder of OurCrowd commented: “If it’s not the virus it’s Iranian missile threats or some terror,” he said. “We’re used to this.”

What about the products that were going to launch?

This year, under the theme of ‘Limitless Intelligent Connectivity’, MWC was supposed to focus on seven core topics: AI, connectivity in the 5G era, customer engagement, industry X, media and entertainment, our planet, and security and privacy.

MWC 2020 also represented the victory lap for 5G, as it is the first year of 5G being available to (some!) consumers in markets worldwide. With 5G being a buzzword at MWC for the last few years, the actualisation of this new network technology meant that the show was poised to show real-life consumer and business applications, in the hope of raising consumer education and expectation as we move towards the middle of 2020.

Nevertheless, as the likes of Sony, Intel and Huawei still chose to launch products – a privilege enjoyed by big name brands. For giants in the industry, the loss of the show is not partially impactful.

So, what’s been driving the news?

Huawei announced a new Mate XS foldable phone and a pair of new laptops. The laptops have Intel’s chips, however the real talking point amongst the press is that the products are without Google apps and services due to ongoing trade restrictions. The company also had to build a replacement for Google Play Services which enables push notifications, location pings, and essential API features. While none of this is an issue for the domestic Chinese market (where phones don’t ship with Google software at all), customers in other regions may dearly miss Google apps and access to the Play Store on their phones.

In other news, Intel announced a set of hardware and software announcements, including the launch of the new Intel Atom P5900, a 10nm system-on-a-chip (SoC) for wireless base stations, designed for early 5G network deployments .

Finally, one year after the debut of its super-tall Xperia 1, Sony is back with a successor, the not very imaginatively titled Xperia 1 II. In Europe, the handset will be Sony’s first to support 5G, where it will be able to connect to sub-6GHz networks.

The loss of MWC this year has arguably gained more national business coverage than it would have done, should it have gone ahead. MWC is often seen as a place where trends are born, laying out a blueprint for the industry to follow in the year ahead. Despite the cancellation, product releases have still gained momentum and 5G has remained at the forefront of tech news. Babel are able to quickly and effectively leverage your brand’s marketing collateral, announcements and customer wins – plus craft creative original content – to ensure that your comms campaign goes on, even when the show isn’t!

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