With Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom some of the latest players to cancel their attendance at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona this year, the GSMA is hoping to draw in locals from various vertical industries

A couple of weeks ago, the Spanish government approved MWC’s health and safety plan, thereby lifting coronavirus travel restrictions and allowing event attendees to enter the country. However, this positive news was not enough to stop Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom, two of the events largest exhibitors, from formally pulling out of the physical event just last week. 
They join a growing list of major players not attending this year, including Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, and Cisco.
Nonetheless, despite these drop outs, the GSMA has been steadfast in its commitment to running a physical event, albeit on a smaller scale than in previous iterations.
“When we speak to the exhibitors, some are very hesitant, some are saying we are not coming as we have a travel policy, and some are saying that we normally send 250 people, we are just going to send five," explained Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA, said in an interview. “However those five are the right people, it is the CEO, or the CTO or the CFO.”
Overall, the event is planning to host around 30,000 people, according to Granryd, compared to the usual total of over 100,000. Around 70% of the speakers at the conference will take part physically, while the remaining 30% will present virtually.
Naturally, this shortfall in visitors will leave the Fira Barcelona feeling somewhat more empty than previous years, but the GSMA appears to have a plan to encourage attendance by opening the event to the public for the very first time. 
As part of the what the GSMA is calling its Give What We Receive initiative, the organisation is offering limited time ‘Discovery Passes’ for €21, exclusively available to Spanish residents from a variety of vertical industries, including automotive/transportation, broadcast and entrainment media, and education.
Part of the funds raised will be donated to a Covid-19 aid fund.
The extent to which the Spanish community will take the GSMA up on this offer of greatly discounted tickets remains to be seen  needless to say, there will be plenty of space.
It is also notable that Discovery Pass holders at this year’s event will also receive a 50% discount for future MWC Barcelona events until 2024. The GSMA are positioning this a way of showing gratitude to the Spanish community and Barcelona for hosting their event for so many years, but it could also hint that they anticipate future iterations of MWC will also need to be bolstered by a local crowd. 
MWC is a much beloved event in the telecoms industry’s calendar and it would be great to see local support help carry the event through a traumatic couple of years. And, with the telecoms sector becoming more diversified than ever, there has never been a better time for industries and enterprises to begin to take notice of the latest connectivity trends and developments.
Want to keep up to date with the latest developments in the world of telecoms? Subscriber to receive Total Telecom’s daily newsletter here
Also in the news: