Videos and virtual chats replace MWC content

fira barcelona
Many speakers scheduled to present this week in the Fira de Barcelona will instead be making videos. (Getty Images)

Most of the meetings and parties that are usually part of Mobile World Congress are canceled this week, but some of the content GSMA produces for attendees is still happening. During the week that would have been Mobile World Congress, the GSMA is instead launching live, virtual drop-in sessions as well as a series of videos entitled "MWC shorts."  

"These short 5-15 minute videos will showcase the very best in thought leadership, providing a window into the unparalleled knowledge-sharing that would have taken place at MWC Barcelona 2020," said Ana Tavares Lattibeaudiere, GSMA's head of North American operations. The GSMA is posting the videos to a website and says the list of companies submitting videos includes AiRXOS, ASOCS, Ericsson, GE Aviation, Google, IBM, KORE, Lufthansa, Lynk Global, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, Strategy Analytics, Synchronoss, VMware, and Unilever. The videos will consist of a mix between single speakers and panel discussions and will cover topics including artificial intelligence, 5G, customer engagement, media and entertainment, security and privacy.

A slightly different list of topics will be covered at the GSMA's live virtual drop-ins, which will be hosted on a different website and will run February 24-27. In addition to 5G and artificial intelligence, these sessions will also touch on IoT, blockchain, roaming agreement exchange (RAEX) and rich communication services (RCS). 

Some of the other topics that registrants were hoping to learn more about this week may now become topics of discrete meetings, or of panel discussions at other shows. Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas, said before the show's cancellation that he expected progress on standards and spectrum allocation to be two major topics at MWC 2020. Now, 3GPP has cancelled in-person meetings for this month and next, and has said it will decide next month whether Release 17 will be delayed. Meanwhile progress on spectrum allocation may not be delayed by the cancellation of MWC 2020, although the industry has missed a chance to advocate for more spectrum in a very visible public forum.

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Pearson expected a lot of MWC 2020 discussion to focus on what he calls "technology enablers," or technologies that bring the benefits of 5G to consumers. He named mobile edge computing, network slicing, open RAN and the integration of cloud native technologies as examples of these enablers that he hoped would be big topics in Barcelona. But according to Pearson, there is plenty of time ahead for companies and consumers to explore the benefits of 5G.

"If it is a nine inning-baseball game we are only in the second inning," Pearson said of 5G, adding that he expects a consumer upgrade cycle to 5G devices in the near future as more people start to recognize the benefits of next-generation networks.

Pearson also expected MWC 2020 to offer companies an opportunity to learn more from their business partners about how coronavirus may impact supply chains. Those face-to-face conversations will now have to take place by other means. 

There will be other industry shows in the year ahead, including the GSMA's MWC Los Angeles, set for late October. The GSMA's Lattibeaudiere said this is a very different show from MWC Barcelona, with 85% of its attendees coming from North America. She also said that with the industry evolving so quickly, content choices are sure to be somewhat different by October, although many of the global trends, implications and best practices are likely to be the same.