Barcelona, Spain – After a two-year hiatus, the annual Mobile World Congress came roaring back this year February 28 – March 3, and the showroom was buzzing with a bevy of new wireless launches.
If you are not familiar with the show, MWC is one of the world’s largest and most influential events in the wireless telecom industry. Sponsors and attendees include global mobile operators, device manufacturers, technology providers, and content owners. Visitors see groundbreaking innovations introduced in every corner of the showroom — especially from companies that ace their product launches with flair and finesse.
Notably, the event opened its doors just as concerns over the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine were reaching a fever pitch. GSMA, the organization that hosts MWC, announced it had canceled the Russian Pavilion at the gathering and “strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
What was most unusual about this year’s show? Besides the situation in Ukraine and the return of in-person participation, there were three big takeaways:
Facial recognition technology was everywhere.
Used exclusively for event registration and admission (and to make the event as safe as possible for the international visitors), organizers used first-ever processes to minimize contact based on facial recognition technology. A compulsory MWC app managed all registration processes and replaced lanyards to allow access to the floor. The app generated codes that QR readers scanned to gain access to both the venue and vendor booths.
The show’s adoption of facial recognition came despite concerns about its security. Two European Union (EU) regulatory bodies have lobbied for a ban on the use of facial recognition in public spaces. They warn that AI technologies to identify human features raise severe privacy issues.
The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) and the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) have issued a joint statement advocating legislation to control the use of AI, stressing the need to clarify data protection rules related to the technology.
Nevertheless, from entry to exit, this year’s show was all about QR codes and facial recognition. Masks remained mandatory; visitors weren’t allowed to remove them except for facial scanners. The technology was everywhere, generating QR codes that permitted access through the main entry points and admission to special events. Even food purchases used contactless payment. It was a groundbreaking event in all respects.
The drumbeat got louder for faster adoption of 5G.
“The regions that have 5G first will be the regions that innovate fastest,” said Vodafone CEO Nick Reed during his keynote address. Leading voices from Telefonica and other wireless leaders called on European governments to boost their support of 5G investments.
Mats Granryd, director-general of the GSMA (Global System for Mobile Communications Association), called on world governments to launch 5G spectrums “at affordable prices.” Granryd pointed out that nearly half of the world is not connected online, hitting rural areas in less-educated countries the hardest. “I urge partners, public and private, to invest at the same level as the mobile industry to reduce the usage gap,” he said. “More than ever, responsible leadership is the way to reject division and unleash the full power of connectivity.”
At least one large entity appears to be stepping up the challenge. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it will auction off more mid-band spectrum in July for 5G. The commission’s chair, Jessica Rosenworcel, said during a keynote that companies can bid for spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band, which represents the “single largest swath of contiguous mid-band spectrum we have below 3 GHz.”
The spectrum would be used to extend 5G coverage beyond the most populated areas, she noted. After this auction, the FCC will work with federal agencies to open up the next tranche of mid-band spectrum in the 3.1 GHz to 3.45 GHz band. Last October’s mid-band auction in the 3.45 GHz to 3.55 GHz band was one of the most successful in FCC history, she said.
Rosenworcel noted that mid-band for 5G offers an “ideal blend of capacity and coverage.” She said the spectrum is a “key to delivering on the promise of 5G services and ensuring that it reaches as many people as possible.
Companies were crystal clear about their trade show strategy.
The roll-out of the best and brightest new products and services is always a highlight of MWC, and this year was no exception. Companies that included Fujitsu, Realme, Xiaomi Pocophone, Intel, and Qualcomm grabbed visitors’ attention. These vendors understand that face-to-face exposure is the most effective way to create stronger relationships with current and prospective customers. Technology might allow us to connect using emails and video calls, but statistics show that customer growth numbers generated by in-person trade shows are especially strong.
As a B2B marketer, I was interested to learn why this show is so effective at boosting brands. In addition to huge attendance, the event each year has state-of-the-art designs that attract the attention of the right prospects. Sometimes, a single exhibition can act as a game-changer for cultivating new customers. In addition, the most successful exhibitors had Search Engine Optimization and Content Marketing strategies to further connect with prospects and leave an impression.
By some estimates, 92% of trade show attendees say they are looking to discover new products, presumably to stay on top of industry trends. Sales staff who can make a genuine human connection as an entry point into the sales cycle are invaluable. It encourages prospects to drop by your booth and connect you with company decision-makers.
MWC also attracts industry influencers. They know from experience that an enormous amount of professional learning goes on. Trade shows provide clear customer education — in theater-style settings, seminars, and off-site events. According to Trade Show Executive, 66% of attendees are there to increase their professional knowledge. It is the perfect venue to do just that.
Building the brands of wireless and other high-tech companies in the business-to-business space is our specialty at Forward Vision. In today’s always-on world, there are many new and effective layers of digitally-driven marketing. This year’s Mobile World Congress show made that clear.
A digital marketing audit by our experts will help you uncover hidden opportunities in your strategy, providing you with actionable recommendations to make the most of your time and budget. Request a free digital audit here.