Mobile World Congress kicks off in Barcelona with a record 100,000 visitors expected

From this Monday until the 25th of February leading brands in the mobile phone-related industries such as Samsung, LG and Sony will present their latest wares and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton will be amongst the speakers. A record figure of 100,000 visitors are expected and 2,100 international exhibitors have confirmed their attendance at the fair, consolidating Barcelona as a true meeting point for the sector. The 2016 edition of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) will take place amid major security measures due to the terrorist attacks in Paris last November and will also be affected by the metro strike, whichTransports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB) will carry out on the key days of the MWC. Thus, the recently opened new metro line, the L9, won’t contribute as much mobility as expected.


First day of the Mobile World Congress, at Barcelona L'Hospitalet Gran Via (by ACN)
First day of the Mobile World Congress, at Barcelona L'Hospitalet Gran Via (by ACN) / ACN


February 22, 2016 11:50 AM

Barcelona (CNA).- The world’s most important event in the mobile industry opened its doors this Monday in Barcelona. Until the 25th of February, leading brands in the mobile phone-related industries such as Samsung, LG and Sony will present their latest wares at L’Hospitalet Gran Via, consolidating the city’s position as a true meeting point for the sector. Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016 expects nearly 100,000 visitors, 2,000 more than in 2015. 2,100 exhibitors, 160 government delegates and 4,000 journalists from all over the world will also attend the fair, which will generate €460 million and 13,000 jobs in the city. The recently opened new metro line, the L9, won’t contribute as much mobility as expected as Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB) have confirmed the metro services strike action planned for the key days of the MWC. 

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will feature, for the third year in a row, as one of the congress’ most high-profile speakers and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton will take part in a round table to discuss the implementation of wireless technology in the automotive sector. 

Besides Zuckerberg and Hamilton, the speakers whom are likely to attract the most visitor attention are Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Ford President and CEO Mark Fields, General Electric Digital Head Officer William Ruh, MasterCard President Ann Cairns, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and Getty Images CEO Dawn Airey. 

Google has confirmed its comeback to the MWC after a two-year absence. However, Apple will again be the most notable absentee. Key players in the mobile phone-related industry, such as Samsung, Sony, LG, Huawei, Telefonica and Vodafone will be amongst the 2,100 exhibitors.

Graphene, 5G and the Internet of Things

MWC 2016 will dedicate an entire pavilion to graphene, which is known as “the future’s material”. Graphene is expected to revolutionise the mobile industry due to its qualities and potential usages. 

The congress will also focus on the latest designs in mobile phones, tablets and wearables, which are getting more aesthetically pleasing and include new functions, some of them related to health issues. The MWC will also centre on the Internet of Things, which allows the user to have their house, car and other possessions connected and which are able to be controlled from one single device. In this vein, the congress will pay special attention to the 5G network, which is “super important for the Internet of Things” due to its “speed and flexibility”, explained CSS Insight’s Research Director, Ben Wood. 

Barcelona metro strike

The long and hard negotiations carried out throughout the week between Barcelona’s City Hall and TMB haven’t seen them come to terms. Thus, mobility in the Catalan capital during this week will be complicated. Not only has TMB confirmed their metro strike on the key days of the MWC, but buses and trains will also suffer disruptions. TMB has recommended avoiding the metro in the rush hours to avoid build-ups, as the minimum services won’t be able to absorb the usual demand of a working day plus the MWC’s demands.

One of the key infrastructures recently opened, the metro’s L9 won’t contribute as much as expected to facilitate access to the fair and visitors’ mobility. The new L9 Sud line connects Barcelona’s city centre with El Prat Airport and is the longest driverless stretch in Europe. It opened two weeks ago, after years of delays, with the view to having its greatest acid test coincide with the MWC. Besides facilitating the connection from and to El Prat Airport, it was expected to make access to L’Hospitalet Gran Via easier and quicker. However, with the L9 offering minimum services on the key days of the fair, the benefits that it implied for the city’s mobility on such important dates will be much smaller than expected.

The MWC will be offering shuttle buses from different points of the city to L’Hospitalet Gran Via, where the congress takes place. Moreover, taxis won’t have any restriction on their services throughout the days of the fair.

Major security measures

MWC 2016 will be held amid extra security measures, due to the terrorist attacks in Paris in November which have raised the terrorist alert level from 4 to 5. For the first time, each visitor’s identity will be checked and a police office will be set up within the Gran Via enclosure, the area where the congress takes place. 

Opening dinner with Spain’s King

Authorities and 160 guests attended the MWC opening dinner on Sunday at Barcelona’s Liceu Opera House. Besides welcoming the fair, the event represented the first meeting between the Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, Parliament’s President, Carme Forcadell, and Spain’s King, Philip VI. In his speech, Spain’s King defined the MWC as “the sum of the efforts and commitments” of the administrations and the GSMA, the MWC’s organisers. “This is the path to guarantee the prosperity of us all: working all together and having the common good as the only goal”.

President Puigdemont used the concepts “international, technology, innovation and creativity” to define both the MWC and Catalonia and asked all involved to keep on working and “not give up” despite the “social, economic, political or mobility-related difficulties”. In this vein, Puigdemont assured that Barcelona aims to become a ‘Smart City’ and “the Silicon Valley of Southern Europe” in which “MWC plays a key role”.