New MWC venue sparks criticism and acclaim

Sue Marek

BARCELONA, Spain--Change is never easy. And for the 70,000-plus attendees attending this week's Mobile World Congress here, the transition from the old venue, the Fira Montjuic, to the new facility, the Fira Gran Via, is both good and bad.

Many attendees I spoke with bemoaned the loss of the old-world flavor of the Fira Montjuic with its fountains and  Spanish architecture. The Fira Gran Via, with its modern design, lacks that same charm.

Nevertheless, nearly everyone I spoke with appreciates the extra space offered by the new location.  Exhibitors are thrilled with the additional room to hold meetings and demonstrate their wares. Attendees like the moving walkway through the various halls, the abundant restaurants and the numerous seating areas outside.

The opening keynote addresses were well-attended and, unlike in the past, there was plenty of room for attendees. No need for overflow rooms with the speakers and their presentations live-streamed on screens.

But bigger isn't always better. The extra space means more time navigating from one meeting to the next. While the GSMA should be commended for its numerous information desks and people available to answer questions, the new venue does require some time to get around.

Perhaps the greatest criticism regarding the Fira Gran Via is the difficulty getting to and from it. The city's subway system doesn't yet reach the new venue so most attendees staying in the city have to find another mode of transportation. The GSMA recommends taking the subway and then switching to the train or a bus--which works--but can be cumbersome and crowded, especially if you are heading to or from the Fira at the same time as the other attendees.

Aside from the new venue, the big buzz at Mobile World Congress so far is Mozilla's Firefox OS debut and the fact that it is unlikely to hit the U.S. market until 2014. Big infrastructure vendors are talking (again) about LTE Advanced and small cell deployments. The concept of the "connected car" is gaining momentum with Ford Motor Co. expanding its Applink program and AT&T and General Motors announced plans to use AT&T's LTE network for General Motors' Onstar program starting in 2014.

Notably missing from the show are any major handset or device launches. It appears that device makers are now hosting their own events instead of debuting devices at big shows like the Mobile World. Congress where they risk getting lost among the noise of other annoucements.

We'll be bringing you news from Mobile World Congress all week. Check out all our coverage of here.--Sue