By Sue Marek
The countdown begins. Wireless executives from around the globe are preparing to trek to Barcelona, Spain, for the annual Mobile World Congress trade show, where approximately 70,000 people are gathering for next week's wireless industry confab.
I predict this year the big news will not be what is announced at the show, or even who is speaking at the event. Instead, I think what everyone will be talking about is the venue--the Fira Gran Via, a new location for Mobile World Congress after nearly a decade at Fira Montjuïc. The GSMA said the new venue promises more exhibit space (94,000 square feet compared with the 70,000 square feet that was available at last year's Mobile World Congress) and more restaurants, which will hopefully reduce the time waiting in long lines to grab a bite to eat.
According to Michael O'Hara, CMO of the GSMA, the Fira Gran Via will have a moving walkway through the various halls for attendees to hop on and hop off of. And look for more gathering spots: O'Hara said the GSMA has been busy transforming open areas into places where people can meet.
The GSMA is once again expecting strong attendance for its global conference. O'Hara said there were approximately 67,000 attendees at the 2012 Mobile World Congress and the association is already predicting attendance at the 2013 event will top 70,000. There are also more exhibitors this year. O'Hara said there will be 1,500 companies exhibiting compared with 1,400 in 2012.
The show content will likely once again focus on how the wireless industry is impacting everything from healthcare to transportation. Speakers such as Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, and Stephen Girsky, vice-chairman of GM, will likely bring a different flavor to the conference by discussing how the wireless industry is helping them improve their profitability and provide better customer care.
Traditional wireless industry heavyweights will also be in the spotlight. Look for Randall Stephenson, president and CEO of AT&T (NYSE:T), Franco Bernabè, chairman of the GSMA and chairman and CEO Telecom Italia Group, and René Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, as well as Paul Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), and Hans Vestberg, president and CEO of Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), to lead discussions on the current state of the industry, the future of connected devices and more.
The GSMA will be reviving its "connected home" concept, along with partners AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Korea Telecom and others. But this time, the connected home has morphed into the connected city. The connected city will feature all types of uses for embedded wireless connectivity and will have a car showroom, a department store, a hotel and even a café.
As usual, the Fierce editorial team will be covering Mobile World Congress. I'll be joined by my colleagues Mike Dano, Phil Goldstein, Sandhya Raman and Tammy Parker to bring you the latest news from all the press conferences and keynotes as well as from the show floor. Look for some surprises as well. Tune in to our MWCLive site for complete coverage of the event. I hope you enjoy the show. --Sue