What to expect from MWC Barcelona 2023

The GSMA said it expects 80,000 people to turn out for its MWC trade show in Barcelona, Spain, this year, alongside around 2,000 exhibitors. That's up from the 61,000 who attended MWC Barcelona last year.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

January 23, 2023

5 Min Read
What to expect from MWC Barcelona 2023

The GSMA said it's expecting around 80,000 people to attend its upcoming MWC trade show in Barcelona, Spain, next month.

While that figure is down from the 109,000 people who attended the show in 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic – a high point for the event – it's certainly up from the 61,000 who went to the show last year. And it's way better than the 20,000 who attended the event in June 2021.

The GSMA's relatively rosy outlook isn't surprising. After all, the big CES 2023 show in Las Vegas earlier this month pulled in a total of 115,000 people – above organizers' estimates of 100,000 but down from that show's pre-pandemic high point of 170,000.

"Rather than counting numbers, it's important to remember that we are focused on bringing the right people together, that's what we're known for," the GSMA wrote in response to questions from Light Reading on the topic. "As the world's largest and most influential connectivity event, MWC Barcelona is a pivotal point for many in their annual business calendar. Organizations count on MWC Barcelona as we create a mix of inspiration and deal delivery that no one else can deliver. Quite simply, it's the unmissable business-to-business event for everything mobile."

The association added that it's expecting over 2,000 companies to exhibit at this year's event. "We've seen a really high demand for exhibition space as the event expands its scope to engage the broader ecosystem of players who are central to the industry digitization roadmap," the association said.

Indeed, both Samsung Networks and Amdocs confirmed to Light Reading that they will have bigger booths at this year's MWC than they did prior to the pandemic. And Huawei told Fierce Wireless that 2023 will be the vendor's biggest MWC ever.

The big themes

But what are the big MWC attendees saying about the show? Light Reading surveyed a number of leading mobile companies to get their take on what to expect at this year's show, scheduled to start February 27.

Here's a selection of their responses:

"Key areas of focus include virtualization, sustainability and private networks. At the show this year, we expect to see more diversified and immersive 5G-powered use cases as well as a greater emphasis on energy savings efforts across the industry," according to Samsung Networks.

"It'll be fun to see the market discussion on 6G begin, whilst the importance of 5G monetization will be to the fore. We also hope to see a growing and strong messaging on sustainability, particularly the carbon impact of telecommunications and what we can do to help other industries decarbonize also," wrote Matthew Smith, VP and head of live market for Ericsson.

"With rising energy prices and inflationary pressures, I anticipate much of the focus will be on how the industry can reduce energy consumption and overarching operating expenses, not to mention address urgency to monetize 5G networks," wrote Adolfo Hernandez, VP for the telco industry at Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Naturally, a number of companies planning to attend said they expect progress in their respective focus areas.

"At MWC 2023, we are highlighting the benefits of our wireless connectivity leadership with the exciting product and ecosystem news," a Qualcomm representative wrote in response to questions from Light Reading. The company added that its booth at this year's show will be "almost" as big as the ones it managed before the pandemic.

"This year, with RIC [RAN intelligent controller] and many deployments around the globe proving the success of open RAN, we expect that it will again be an important point of discussion, including how diversifying supply chains can help improve overall network security," wrote Mavenir's Maryvonne Tubb. "We also expect there will be serious conversations around how fundamental cloud-native flexibility is to 5G success, monetizing 5G and FWA [fixed wireless access]."

Some of the key MWC 2023 topics mentioned by multiple companies include:

  • Sustainability and energy savings

  • Private networks

  • Automation

  • Cloud

The details

As in past years, the GSMA is touting a number of big-name executives among its MWC keynotes. Those include the CEOs of Maersk, Lockheed Martin, Ericsson, Orange Group, Nokia, Deutsche Telekom, ZTE and Vodafone. Doreen Bogdan-Martin, the new secretary general of the International Telecommunications Union, will also speak.

Themes at the show, according to the GSMA, will range from the metaverse to fixed wireless to open RAN to cryptocurrency.

And among the many collocated events, the GSMA announced a deal with soccer/football club FC Barcelona to host the Sports Tomorrow Congress show alongside MWC.

Finally, Mobile World Live – the news arm of the GSMA – is previewing the show with its "unwrapped" event starting February 6.

And what of COVID-19, the virus that ended up forcing the GSMA to cancel its 2020 show? The same virus that's reportedly racing through China following that country's sudden elimination of COVID-19 lockdowns?

"MWC Barcelona 2023 will open as normal," according to the association. "So, we're excited to welcome everyone back to business, safely and without restrictions."

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

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About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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