GSMA boss bullish on prospects for big MWC

John Hoffman, CEO of event organiser GSMA Ltd, is confident MWC22 Barcelona will be a return of sorts to pre-pandemic editions of the mobile show, while outlining how Connectivity Unleashed represented the perfect theme considering huge potential in the industry right now and how technology had advanced over the last three years.

In an interview with Mobile World Daily, Hoffman insisted that “people want to be together” and the appetite for in-person events was clear again, as he projected between 40,000 to 60,000 people will walk through the doors at the Fira Gran Via venue between 28 February and 3 March.

MWC22 will be the second edition of the mobile show since the Covid-19 pandemic began, with GSMA holding a scaled-down version of the event last June.

Hoffman is sure that this year will be “a lot bigger” than the last one, if understandably a bit smaller than what it used to be, with around 1500 companies in attendance across 150 countries, in addition to the 4YFN startup-focused event also being held at the main venue.

In terms of the agenda, Hoffman revealed it had hit record numbers for conference programme speaker requests, with more people than ever from around the world wishing to present, including high demand for in-person slots.

In total, GSMA is expecting more than 1000 speakers, with only a “handful of companies that are going to send their speakers virtually”, said Hoffman.

Connectivity Unleashed

At the core of this year’s show, Hoffman explained why Connectivity Unleashed was the perfect umbrella for the event, with areas like 5G, Big Data, AI and IoT considerably more mainstream than they were pre-pandemic.

For Hoffman, these areas of technology are more of a reality now, and it’s a case of looking at what’s next, throwing areas like the much-hyped metaverse into the mix.

The GSMA executive is also particularly excited about this year’s Ministerial Programme, and in particular hearing from experts on how policy and regulation has to be changed and adapted.

“I think it’s really important to talk about guiding principles from a regulatory standpoint. It all comes down to discussing, driving and debating the future, while looking back a little at the pandemic. What worked, what did and didn’t mobility do, which is all captured perfectly with Connectivity Unleashed,” he said.

Elsewhere, Hoffman called out keynote one, with GSMA Director General Mats Granryd opening the show and “setting the stage”, in addition to the comments from the newly appointed GSMA chairman and Telefonica CEO Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete.

Hoffman is also looking forward to hearing virtually from all three chairmen from China’s big operators; China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile, with all three presenting at the event for the first time, representing a “historic moment”.

For a less-traditional presentation, Hoffman highlighted Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart, with the company making massive strides in embracing technologies such as blockchain and NFTs.

“I think that one’s going to be really interesting,” said Hoffman.