Thoughts of a Fira first-year: MWC isn’t just a telecoms event

I returned home from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week to be greeted by the freezing Beast from the East. As I tried to stay warm, I also took the time to reflect on my first MWC after experiencing the show first-hand from the Fira floor.

Having never been to a major tradeshow or expo before, certainly not one of this size anyway, I didn’t know what to expect. Sure, my fellow Babelites – all MWC veterans – had shared titbits and tales of years gone by before we flew out, but that still didn’t really prepare me for the scale of MWC. I’d been to Barcelona plenty of times before as a tourist but was totally oblivious to the sprawling set of exhibition halls that make up the Europa Fira, and it was quite mind boggling to take in at first. I’ve definitely done my months’ worth of exercise walking around the halls all day!

Once I’d got my head around the size of the Congress the first thing I noticed, was that really, I wasn’t in a telecoms tradeshow at all, but rather a tech one. I’d expected to be greeted with hundreds of operators and vendors showcasing their latest handsets, demonstrating their developments in 5G and discussing everything going on in the telecoms world. While of course all of those things were there in Barcelona, there was so much more to the show.

Robots operating on the latest AI seemed to be on every corner; flash cars full of gadgets and gizmos were never far away; VR headsets allowed attendees to do everything from design custom trainers to shoot rogue cowboys. The Champions League trophy was even on display, which gave the sports nerd in me a bit of a kick!

I guess that was my main takeaway from my first MWC: that mobile tech is becoming increasingly diversified and its use spans infinitely beyond making calls and sending texts. Don’t get me wrong, some of what I saw in Barcelona has left my head swimming in a sea of jargon and acronyms that I don’t fully understand. But even a Fira fresher like myself couldn’t help but notice that the industry is hurtling towards exciting new developments that will impact so much of our everyday lives.

One key topic that kept cropping up in every hall was smart cities. Whether it was the host of connected ‘things’ set to improve our urban environments, or the stringent network tests being done to facilitate network capacity, every exhibitor seemed to be able to comment on smart cities somehow. Nokia deserves a shout-out for making its entire stand into a smart city. Whilst some competitors threw millions at their stands to make them big and bullish, I enjoyed seeing Nokia’s creativity in bringing its smart city work to life.

I also overheard plenty of discussion on spectrum space, and what it means for everyone from mobile operators to cable and satellite providers. Being an impatient millennial who’s been known to binge-watch video content on my phone, all the talk of super-fast, super-reliable 5G networks was, well, super interesting! There was plenty of discussion about how increased consumption of video is impacting network capacity; a trend which will definitely continue as we head through the year and into 2019.Until then, if someone could invent an IoT device that can clear the railway lines and warm my hands up, that would be great.

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