By Kavit Majithia
GSMA Ltd boss backs MWC Barcelona 2023 to buck economic headwinds
John Hoffman, CEO of GSMA Ltd, expects the mobile industry to stand-out and showcase its significance to the world against the backdrop of a gloomy economic environment, as he backed MWC23 to be the strongest edition of the show since 2019.
Speaking to Mobile World Daily, Hoffman is confident MWC will get back to its best in terms of scope, attendance, exhibitors and general feeling since the Covid-19 pandemic caused a cancellation in 2020 and scaled-down versions of the event in the following two years.
This year, the GSMA is preparing to welcome around 80,000 delegates, over 2,000 exhibitors from 180 to 190 countries and more than 1,000 speakers to the big event.
With the world moving to the “downside of the pandemic”, and now facing up to economic headwinds, Hoffman believes MWC has the opportunity to emerge as the “bellweather” and set the tone for business and economy trends going forward.
“Mobile has really allowed all of us to somehow survive the pandemic. Without mobility, we couldn’t educate kids, we couldn’t conduct business,” he said.
“It’s not new anymore. If we didn’t have mobility, I don’t know what would have happened. I do think it’s the baseline.”
Talking the talk
With more than 1,000 speakers, Hoffman had a large pool to pick from in terms of who he was looking forward to hearing from.
Hoffman backed Mats Granryd, GSMA director general, and the industry group’s chairman and Telefonica CEO Jose Maria-Alvarez Pallete, to set the scene.
But, aside from industry big hitters, Hoffman said he was keen to hear from shipping giant Maersk’s CEO Vincent Clerc about where the use of mobile technology was headed.
He also called out the CEO of Extreme E Alejandro Agag as well as the chairman and CEO of EY, citing their discussion in the MWC keynote that will unpack the issues and opportunities for the mobile industry and motor racing.
Turning his attention to this year’s overarching theme of Velocity, Hoffman explained the term was a way to highlight the fact that it wasn’t technology changing from year-to-year, but it was actually the speed at which it was accelerating.
“5G has had the fastest adoption ever. The velocity has increased, and that drives the innovation cycle,” said Hoffman. “Everything is faster today. There isn’t a better theme to express that concept than Velocity. The speed of adoption, the speed of innovation, the speed of change is hyper-fast.”
The GSMA boss also expects the emergence of sports technology, the ongoing discussion around sustainability, industry diversity and addressing the major usage gap in which around 3 billion have access to mobility services but are not using it, as major talking points this year.
“We’re going to keep that front and centre during the conference. It’s not a new theme, but it’s an important theme. We advocate on behalf of everyone,” he said.