March 11, 2024

Reflections on MWC 2024: A Post-Mobile Mobile World Congress

MWC was certainly back to its pre-COVID best, with over 100,000 attendees from around the globe descending on Barcelona for one of the largest tradeshows of the year. However, despite similarities with shows we have visited in years gone by, there has been a significant shift in focus. Peter Raabe, Strategic Marketing Director at RFS, shares his thoughts.

Peter Raabe, Strategic Marketing Director

MWC is a show that has seen many evolutions. From its origins in Cannes, migration through multiple generations of mobile technology, its expansion into AI and robotics – MWC has never been a static show. However, this year, MWC has seen arguably its biggest step change. It is no longer a mobile show. 
A shift in focus
That is not to say mobile technology wasn’t on display. There were plenty of device launches and conversations about wearable tech, as well as the usual demonstrations of everything from AI to network slicing. There were thousands of conversations about 5G, 5.5G, and 6G. But the change is in the focus of those conversations. 
The industry has previously taken the approach of ‘build it, and they will come.’ They have built networks and made technological advancements, and it has been the responsibility of enterprises across a range of vertical markets to figure out how to best utilize that technology. This is no longer the case.  
Catering to vertical markets 
More and more exhibitors are focused on demonstrating how they can serve a variety of verticals with specialist offerings tailored to that market. Here are just a few examples from a show that had an unprecedented focus on industry. 

A visit to the Etisalat& stand was one of the clearest demonstrations of this trend. The stand was full of industry solution demos showing how Etisalat& could work with different verticals from mining to manufacturing. It is a great example of how traditional MNOs are having to think differently about catering to their enterprise customer base.  
Industry City 
The GSMA echoed the mobile and connectivity industry’s renewed commitment to enterprise and industry customers with a new dedicated, connected industry space in Hall 4. Working as a space for all industries from “health to hospitality, mining to maritime, aviation to agriculture,” it points to a new, more prominent place for industries to dictate the direction of the connectivity sector that serves them. 
GSMA Open Gateway
Compounding the GSMA’s commitment to making MWC about more than just mobile was the launch of its Open Gateway. GSMA Open Gateway is a framework of common network APIs that aim to provide universal access to operator networks for developers. There are several motivations behind this project, but a key factor is certainly making operator networks more accessible for enterprise and industrial applications. We will have to see how this develops in the coming years, but it is a stake in the ground from the GSMA that easy integration with customers across a range of sectors is key to the future of the industry. 

Understanding sector-specific challenges 
At RFS, we acknowledge that each sector, by its very nature, has different needs and challenges to overcome. With this in mind, in 2022, we developed the RFS interactive landscape to help our vertical customers see exactly how RFS solutions can help answer some of the most difficult questions they face. Covering everything from off-shore energy to metros and manufacturing, you can visit the landscape to see what RFS can do for your business. 
In January of this year, Lara Dewar, Chief Marketing Officer of the GSMA, said, “MWC is no longer mobile-first or digital-first; we are Future First.”  She was definitely correct that MWC has moved away from its roots as a mobile show with a radically different focus. 
The enterprises that once quietly adopted technologies in whatever form they took are now defining the conversations and direction of the technologies that will transform their industries. If, as was suggested, MWC is now ‘future first’ in its focus, then it is very clear that the future is enterprise.