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TickTockTech: Mobile World Congress 2024 — What’s the Verdict?

March 1, 2024
By Claire Jones

Last week I posted in prelude to attending one of the world’s biggest mobile conferences, Mobile World Congress 2024 (MWC24), anticipating how the event will have changed since I last attended in the noughties.

It turns out the communications landscape may have shifted significantly, but many things have reassuringly stayed the same. Ironically, the Wi-Fi is still shocking, you can’t find a charging point for love nor money, the food remains just below average, transport is chaos and your daily steps will always exceed 20,000.

But that didn’t deter attendance. The show was quite literally heaving, with nearly 100,000 attendees jostling through the halls. And although the media list still looked a little thin last week, there was a host of late additions, spanning UK national and business media.

One analyst, who has attended most years over the last two decades, reliably informed me that this year’s Congress was the best yet — back to pre-Covid popularity, with the most interesting tech she’s ever seen on display.

I can’t disagree. From flying taxis, robot dogs and cats, to 3D advertising walls, the visual display of futuristic tech was incredibly impressive. I had chills when I saw the most realistic female android conversing effortlessly with the crowds. Imagine how gutted you’d feel if that was on the stand next to yours?

What did the media think?

As a comms professional, I felt this Congress had enough meat on the bones for media to feel it was worth attending to get a pipeline of stories and inspiration for what is coming down the line. But I wanted to test my views with a selection of seasoned journalists who were on the ground, whose experiences range from the novice attendee to returners like me.

Jess Jones, TMT reporter at City A.M., a MWC24 first-timer, attended primarily to moderate a GSMA Foundry Innovation panel, but was not disappointed and felt the show more than met up to expectations. In her words:

My first time at MWC definitely lived up to the madness I was pre-warned about. From a media perspective, it was useful to see first-hand what telcos are up to beyond the day-to-day business activities; for example, SK Telecoms’ AI aircraft simulator and Vodafone’s XR glasses. It was also a good opportunity to catch up with old and new contacts.”

Mike Moore, Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro, was also impressed with what this year had to offer and the key themes consistent across many of the exhibiting companies. He explained:

“MWC 2024 was my first for five years, and while a lot of the big exhibitors and big themes have stayed the same, it was no surprise to see that AI dominated pretty much every conversation. It was really interesting to hear just how companies from all different sectors and all different sizes want to use AI, and how it can affect not just businesses, but consumers as well. It was also quite telling to see how many large companies were calling for greater co-operation and collaboration with their peers — hopefully this is a sign of things to come.”

Ryan Browne, Tech Correspondent at CNBC echoes Mike’s views on how AI was clearly the dominant theme of the show, explaining:

“The most attention-grabbing products from the show were, unsurprisingly, focused on the realm of AI. And you saw major smartphone makers and device manufacturers talking up the inclusion of artificial intelligence in their gadgets this year. Separately from this, there was a plethora of smaller tech companies, including Chinese smartphone maker Honor, U.S. startup Humane, and even German mobile network operator Deutsche Telekom, which showed off ways the future “phone” experience might look a lot different with the integration of AI as more of an everyday personal assistant.”

Ryan also explained the role of MWC24 in the wider ecosystem of global shows and its role in setting the scene for the key topics across the tech sector:

“This Mobile World Congress was one of the biggest and boldest shows I’ve been to in years. The show, which has the knack for focusing on some of the most critical stories and trends in the technology, media, and telecom space, had a packed event programme filled with interesting insights into the way that artificial intelligence is impacting and disrupting telecoms companies. And the opportunities that the technology can bring with networks making major investments into proprietary AI, as well as partnering with hyperscalers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure for a helping hand with the cloud and software expertise they don’t have as much access to.”

My take: Did it live up to the hype?

In one word, yes. Absolutely. It’s clear that MWC is back with gusto, and the GSMA should be thrilled at this year’s success. From a comms perspective, visually standing out is always going to be a challenge when we have hit the Star Trek android era and Back to the Future flying taxis.

However, many of the coverage winners were companies whose CEOs and senior execs took time to meet with media and understand they need a relevant and interesting point of view. With such a strong and engaged media turnout, it’s crucial that brands start considering their comms strategy for next year sooner rather than later. And while not all exhibitors can drive footfall to their stand with robot animals, perhaps all they need is a charging booth and free water to draw the crowds!