Giving Mobile World Congress 2013 A Miss

<UPDATE: At the request of a client I will be attending MWC in 2013, so see you there 🙂  If it was on my own company’s dollar then this article still stands.  Also I just booked the flight, the price was good and seats were left, which was a little surprising.>

Usually by this time in August I’m booking flights for Barcelona for February the following year to attend the Mobile World Congress (MWC).  I brought my family during MWC 2012 and we had a wonderful time in Barcelona.  Barcelona is great for small children with lots of playgrounds, some with crèches that bring out their toys to play with making it great fun.  The restaurants go the extra mile in making the experience of dining out with small children a delight, yes I did say ‘delight’ and ‘dining with small children’ in the same sentence.  The later date (end of Feb) avoided the clash with Valentine’s day and Chinese New Year, and meant Barcelona’s warm enough to eat outside in the evening. But that was my 2012 Barcelona family holiday.

As stated in a previous weblog article, I’m predicting a long, slow decline for MWC over the coming years for several reasons:

  • Continued decline in operator attendance, most of the conversations were between two suppliers going, “I’m great, you’re great, let’s be great together!”  They don’t need to travel to Barcelona to do that.
  • The GSMA is not fulfilling its charter of “representing the interests of mobile operators worldwide” rather is behaving like a greedy monopolist with the show.  Given the crime problems and now social unrest, remaining in Barcelona for the next 7 years shows a disregard for the safety of its 67k visitors.  The move out of the city ensures suppliers cannot use local hotels for their meetings, they’re forced to use the over-priced GSMA rooms.  The move to a larger facility ensures the GSMA can add more themes to get more revenue and make the conference even more unfocused.  It will be much more difficult to get to the show as its out of town, so travel is now totally at risk from strikes.  Greed has over-ridden common sense in the GSMA.  MWC has become too expensive, too unfocused, too much BS and political double-talk, and not enough open balanced debate.  Operators please start holding the GSMA accountable to clear, quantified objectives.  If you’re restricting attendance to MWC, something is wrong with what the GSMA is doing with this show.
  • In the beginning of the show’s history it was quite operator centric (and run by Informa), a serious event focused on solving the challenges the industry faced in building out the GSM mobile network.  As the networks got built the show became more vendor-centric as their marketing dollars drove the agenda (and the GSMA took over).  And today it’s now become GSMA centric: pack as much in (unfocused), avoid serious debate (political), and charge rates that make no sense given the GSMA is a not-for-profit organization.  Medium sized companies now spend between $250-750k at the show for a few leads given the low operator attendance, hence it’s now not generating the necessary returns.  In my meetings many suppliers are considering downsizing their involvement in the show.  My recommendation is hire an evangelist and get a much better return on investment.

I’m helping a number of innovative companies either enter the telecom market or build their business.  We naturally focused on MWC 2012 for face-to-face operator meetings, and found that 90% of the operators we wanted to meet were not attending MWC.  It is increasingly difficult to justify MWC attendance given the continued decline of operator attendance.  Instead I recommend initially use the telephone and internet for an introductory chat, then if it makes mutual sense go to the operators’ offices and have a focused and detailed meeting with all relevant members of the team, or attend specialized conferences to open up new opportunities especially in emerging markets.

For the first time in 15 years, I will not be attending MWC; Mobile World Congress 2013 will be a miss for me.  Unless MWC changes, my prediction of its long slow decline will increasingly look like a statement of the obvious.

One thought on “Giving Mobile World Congress 2013 A Miss

  1. Dean Bubley (@disruptivedean)

    Alan
    I wholeheartedly agree.
    I’m also skipping MWC’13 for precisely the same reasons. In particular, I’m not interested in traipsing back & forth to the new venue every day.
    My guess is that everyone else will have second thoughts in 2014, so as analysts we’re merely ahead of the curve.
    In any case, a good proportion of MWC attendees come through London the week before, so I’ll just set aside a few days for meetings (and add in some more operators for good measure)
    Dean

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