The Mobile World Congress – A Short History

We are writing the year 6 after the appearance of the iPhone. Although Apple was never physically present on the Mobile World Congress (MWC), their presence was always strongly felt in the past 6 years. But how did it all come to pass with this great and leading event?

It started in 1987 as a small fair about mobile communication. For 20 long years it was called “3GSM World Congress”. In 2008, i.e. year 1 after the iPhone, it replaced the “3GSM” with “Mobile”. Since 2006, the mobile world meets at the Fira de Barcelona, and in 2013 for the first time at the Fira Gran Via. Today, the Mobile World Congress is not only world’s largest mobile exhibition, but also a conference where prominent CEOs present their views about the future of their brand. You will meet mobile network operators, device manufacturers, app developers, technology companies, network equipment vendors, and content providers. But don’t be surprised, this list may even be longer, much longer.

The MWC is a big magnet. Its force of attraction is constantly getting stronger. In the years 2007 through 2010 the number of exhibitors stagnated at 1300. Since then, it increases by 100 per annum. Likewise the number of visitors: after a small bump in 2009 and 2010 their numbers grow each year by around 6000. There were 67000 visitors in 2012.

There’s a reason for this attraction. We find it in the history of the MWC. Here are the main messages and trends, since the iPhone arrived:

  • Broadband evolves dramatically into the mobile. LTE is already here growing extremely fast, and driving the mobile-cloud market. Small Cells will dominate the future. The Mobile Internet is a vital infrastructure such as water and energy.
  • There is an exploding plethora of smart mobile devices. A fierce race of brands. Full of surprises and disruptions. These universal devices changed our lifestyle. Sustained. They will soon become much smaller, include unexpected features, and migrate into well-known commodities, such as clothes, wristwatches, glasses, etc.
  • Wireless must be green. This applies both for the network infrastructure and user devices. It is one of the main buying arguments.
  • The digitalization of our life and business has a mobile user interface. And at the core is the Internet Cloud. It’s a big wave. It does not stop. It penetrates and enriches one area after the other: content, entertainment and advertising; social networking; completely new services using our past and current locations; speech and text recognition; health becomes mobile; smart M2M (Machine-to-Machine) devices enable the Smart Grid; they transform our homes, transportation systems, and our finances. The Internet of Things has left the horizon, approaching us all.
  • We saw even more surprises and disruptions. Users migrate from traditional mobile operators to the Internet OTTs (Over-The-Tops). The mobile app store continues to create new facets of the app economy, which did not exist before. Voice becomes a margin in the Internet, increasingly realized by attractive OTT VoIP solutions à la Skype. Operators migrate to Chinese technology from Huawei and ZTE.

So, if you should consider attending the Mobile World Congress in 2013, watch out. These five topics evolve according their own game-changing rules. Mobile Broadband, User Devices, Green, Applications transforming our lives and businesses, and unexpected surprises and disruptions are here to stay.

Interested in more details about the MWC history? Read „Disruptions After the iPhone – Why the Mobile World Congress is Different Today„.

See you in Barcelona. Hall 5 G40.

Author: Bernd Stahl

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