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Mobile World Congress

MWC Barcelona 2022 to be 'not far from' pre-pandemic attendance – GSMA chief

The head of the GSMA trade association – the organization that backs the annual MWC Barcelona trade show – said that he expects attendance at this year's event to be similar to turnout at the show prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The GSMA reported 109,000 attendees at its show in Barcelona, Spain, in 2019.

"It's going to be a good show," GSMA Director General Mats Granryd told Mobile World Live in a recent interview. "It's not going to be pre-pandemic, but it's going to be not far from."

"All the indicators are showing that this is going to be a great show," he added.

Granryd said that there are roughly 1,000 total speakers and 1,500 exhibitors registered to attend the show, and that he expects most attendees to be there "in real life."

Granryd argued that the GSMA needs to show "responsible leadership" because the wireless industry is critical to global communications. "The risk is that we are losing momentum," he said of the potential for show delays and cancellations. He said the global wireless industry needs to show the world that "we mean business."

He added that the GSMA hosted three in-person events last year: MWC shows in Shanghai, Barcelona and Los Angeles. And he said the trade group plans to continue to host events in a "responsible, safe manner."

The coronavirus, of course, has upended industry trade shows along with plenty of other activities during the past two years. As COVID-19 appears to shift from pandemic to endemic status, the GSMA and other groups continue to work to navigate the landscape.

Importantly, one of the biggest MWC exhibitors appears to be set to attend the Barcelona show later next month. As Light Reading previously reported, Ericsson recently reiterated it will host its massive booth in Hall 2. However, Japan's Sony said it won't attend the show in person.

"The GSMA expects MWC Barcelona 2022 to be close to pre-pandemic level attendance. We'll see. Omicron is running rampant, and it doesn't seem to care if you are vaccinated and boosted," tweeted S&P Global analyst Lynnette Luna.

"I think N America attendance will be light," responded IDC analyst Daryl Schoolar.

Some of the London-based staff of Light Reading is currently scheduled to attend MWC, but no North America-based staff will attend.

The GSMA is one of a number of trade groups moving forward with plans for in-person events in the coming months. Other groups including IWCE, WISPA, WIA and NAB are also planning to hold in-person gatherings. Light Reading's Big 5G Event remains scheduled as an in-person event in May in Austin.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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