BARCELONA – A major wireless technology exhibition opened in Barcelona on Monday with reduced attendance and strengthened health and safety measures, changes that reflect the new reality of trade conventions after the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, the Mobile World Congress was canceled at the last minute due to COVID-19 concerns. It is one of the few large trade exhibitions that is trying to return even as the pandemic is still present in many parts of the world.
The MWC is typically swanky and well-attended, where tech and telecommunications companies set up elaborate pavilions to showcase their newest mobile devices, entertain customers, and lobby public officials. But this year, the expo will likely be overshadowed by its previous series.
“Obviously, there is a big difference from previous years. This exhibition will be much smaller, much safer from a health and protection perspective, ”said Mats Granryd, CEO of the GSM Association, which organizes the event and represents more than 750 mobile network operators.
“We are taking a lot of precautions: testing people regularly in the last 72 hours, without hands, everything is tactless.”
Still, companies like Ericsson, Nokia, Intel, Sony and Qualcomm stayed away while South Korea’s Samsung, the world’s largest mobile phone producer, will only carry out one virtual device launch. Chinese tech giant Huawei, a major sponsor, is one of the few big names to have a booth on display.
Granryd anticipates that between 25,000 and 30,000 participants will attend in person, a fraction of the more than 100,000 visitors from 200 countries in recent years.
Other people will attend virtually, as will a third of the 350 speakers at the expo, including Tesla founder Elon Musk.
The GSMA postponed the event from its usual February season to buy time in the hope that the pandemic was already under control. Granryd said the plan for 2022 is to return to February.
Chan reported from London.
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