Facebook, IoT and 5G will be in the spotlight at MWC 2014

Sue Marek

Look for several non-traditional companies to make headlines at the upcoming Mobile World Congress convention in Barcelona, Spain, Feb. 24-27. As we begin the countdown to this annual wireless confab, it's becoming clear that once again the gathering is drawing leaders from other industries like social media, computing and automotive, executives who are intent upon reaching the key players in the wireless industry.

Just take a look at the roster of MWC keynote speakers: Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB); Virginia Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM; Michael Corbat, CEO of Citigroup; Robert Bakish, president and CEO of Viacom; and Stephen T. Odell, president of Europe, Middle East and Africa for Ford Motor Company.

According to Michael O'Hara, CMO of the GSMA, which hosts this event, the organization is intent upon attracting leaders from other industries to add a fresh perspective and get different viewpoints. Although Zuckerberg's keynote, which many consider to be a highlight of the upcoming event, was not a surprise given that Facebook announced in November that it was joining the trade association, O'Hara said that the two events are unrelated. He said that the GSMA secured Zuckerberg as a keynote speaker long before the firm joined the GSMA. "This had been an ongoing dialog," O'Hara said. "They were unrelated. We secured him as a speaker before that."

Besides Zuckerberg's keynote, expect the Internet of Things to continue to gain momentum as well as related topics like the connected car and the connected home. The GSMA is once again teaming with partners like AT&T, Vodafone, KT and T-Mobile to create the "Connected City," a dedicated area of the show floor featuring interactive displays that showcase how wireless can help with transportation, retail, education, smart cities and more.

O'Hara also expects there to be some growing momentum around 5G, even though there is no 5G standard or even much clarity about what 5G means. "I think you will begin to hear a conversation around 5G, even though that is a long conversation," O'Hara said.

The GSMA is expecting strong attendance at this year's event: about 75,000 attendees this year, compared with 72,000 in 2013. About 1,800 exhibiting companies are expected as well.

Because of the strong number of exhibitors, the GSMA is making use of the Fira Montjuic, the show's previous venue before the GSMA moved the event to the newer Fira Gran Via starting in 2013. The Fira Montjuic will be home to several ancillary events like the Mobile Media Summit, the Health & Wellness event and the WipJam developer event. In addition, the National Association of Broadcasters will be hosting an event there.

If you, like me, have more than a few bad memories of transportation problems during the 2013 Mobile World Congress--90 minutes of waiting in a cab line to leave the Gran Via venue, claustrophobic crowds in the tunnels to the train station--O'Hara said that the GSMA has made several efforts to alleviate those logjams. Look for around 25 percent more taxi cabs, more buses and shuttles and better signs to guide attendees to the correct place. In addition, O'Hara encourages attendees to download the Mobile World Congress app, which will provide them with up-to-date information about what exit has the shortest line and waiting time.

As always, the Fierce team will be out in force at this year's Mobile World Congress, bringing you all the latest news and updates. You can find our coverage in FierceWireless, FierceWirelessTech, FierceWireless: Europe and on our MWClive site. --Sue