When I first started attending the Mobile World Congress (then known as 3GSM World Congress) back in 2002 it was strictly a GSM technology event and much of the program was geared toward a European audience.
Today, 3GSM has been rebranded Mobile World Congress and while GSM still dominates the show, other technology options (such as WiMAX) will be on display and U.S. companies will be prevalent at the event as speakers, exhibitors and attendees.
The GSM Association, which hosts the event, expects this year's show to attract about 53,000 attendees (roughly the same as 2007). "This size and capacity is right for Barcelona. We aren't trying to grow the show. We want to keep it a business-to-business show," says GSMA spokesman David Pringle.
But that doesn't mean there won't be new additions to the conference. I'm particularly intrigued by the Mobile Innovation Marketplace-a two-day event in which 25 pre-selected startups are going to give brief demonstrations of their products to an audience of operators and venture capitalists. I know it's tough for small firms to get visibility with operators and this event gives them the perfect venue to make those contacts and get the necessary traction in the market.
Pringle expects LTE (long-term evolution) to be a big topic at the show with many vendors demonstrating their LTE technology. He also believes that there will be lots of discussion on spectrum, particularly the 700 MHz and 800 MHz frequencies and what this means for wireless broadband.
On the practical side, expect to find even more taxicabs at your disposal. Pringle says that taxi drivers have received permission to work on their day off, making more cabs available for Mobile World Congress attendees.
In addition, expect the Fira to feel even bigger. Pringle says that for the first time Mobile World Congress will be using the entire convention center so convention-goers and exhibitors will have more "room to breathe."
The Fierce editorial team will be bringing you all the news from the Mobile World Congress. I'll be in Barcelona along with my colleagues Brian Dolan and Jason Ankeny. If you see us slogging through the teams of other attendees at the show, be sure to say hello. --Sue