February 21, 2016

Mobile World Congress – where the Mobile Industry goes to do business, but doesn’t.



It’s been 12 years since Cellusys started to go to 3GSM in Cannes. But it’s not 3GSM any more, it’s Mobile World Congress and it’s in Barcelona. That was when 25,000 people from the mobile industry, a lot of them, actual mobile operators, descended upon Cannes to work.

It was bursting at the seams with stories of “did you hear about the guys that can’t find anywhere to stay and are commuting from Italy?”. The fruit & vegetable market turned into a nightclub venue because there just wasn’t space big enough for us in Cannes and “Did Siemens really have to dock a ship and ferry people to it in order to alleviate the Cannes capacity issue? Hang on, you say Siemens? They do mobile stuff?”


Boy, how the business has changed. The days of having to fly into Marseille or Milan to get to Cannes because Nice was at capacity are done. Barcelona has done a great job of solving that but brought a security issue instead. While incidents I would hate to be a victim of, such as stories of the ease at which petty thieves have boarded a bus of VIPs and removed phones, watches and wallets with such ease are funny.

But as a vendor it’s not a place to do business. Operators don’t come to the MWC event to do business. We must go to them. Tables are turned, budgets are slashed, Barcelona is a place where a bunch of vendors go and look at each other every day talking about the near miss of a pick pocket on Las Ramblas and talk of the many women with “big hands”. Now the event commercially is just a Chinese junket, with a fleet of limousines with Chinese drivers and any operators attending are financed by the same. But the ecosystem is so much larger with mobile phone apps and other services created on the peripheries of the core mobile telecoms business.

So I take MWC for what it now is, I miss the days of an “intimate 25,000” in chic Cannes on Valentine’s week to the eclectic gouging of Barcelona. But in reality, I love this event, not for the business, but for the friends made over the years that we see the odd time in Cape Town, Moscow, Dallas, Dubai, Bangkok or Paris but always in Barcelona. I look forward to the familiar faces, late nights and early rises. So this year, I take it for what it is and just spend the week tasting fine Spanish wines with old friends and colleagues. We’re not doing business, but just having a big social with 90,000 others while the rest of the world thinks we’re all doing business.

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February 21, 2016