Mobile World Congress 2018

Fira Gran Via
February 26 – March 1, 2018

Attendees: 107,000
Exhibitors/Sponsors: 2,400
Media/Analysts: 3,500 

Calysto Overview 

Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 saw slightly reduced attendance numbers compared with 2017’s event. Regardless, GSMA deemed the show “hugely successful!” More than 55 percent of this year’s Mobile World Congress attendees held senior-level positions, including more than 7,700 CEOs, up from more than 6,100 CEOs in 2017. 

 “We had another highly successful Mobile World Congress, across so many fronts,” said John Hoffman, CEO, GSMA Ltd. “We are gratified with the number of senior-level attendees, particularly the number of CEOs, as well as the continued strong attendance of government ministers and regulators. However, we are not focused on necessarily having the biggest event – we continually strive to convene the right audience and deliver a high-quality experience across all aspects of the event, the conference, the exhibition, and the many other programmes and events at Mobile World Congress.”  

 The show also noticed an uptick in participation by women, with 28 percent of speakers in the conference program being female, compared with 21 percent in 2017.  

Keynote speakers represented organizations including Airobotics, Atrium TV, Bharti Enterprises, BT Group, China Mobile, CNN Worldwide, Ericsson, European Commission, Formula 1 Driver Fernando Alonso, GE, Go Beyond Investing, HTC, Hyperledger, McAfee, McLaren Technology Group, NTT DOCOMO, PullString, Rakuten, Red Hat, SheWorx, Government of Spain, SoftBank Vision Fund, Sprint, Synchronoss, Tata Communications, Telefónica, Telenor, Telia, Teralytics, United Nations Foundation, United States Federal Communications Commission, Vodafone, World Bank Group, World Food Programme and W20 Argentina Group.  

More than 2,300 companies participated at Mobile World Congress 2018, including major brands such as Accenture, Alibaba, AT&T, BMW, China Mobile, Cisco, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Facebook, Formula 1, Fujitsu, Google, HTC, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, LG, Mercedes-Benz, Nokia, NTT DOCOMO, Orange, PwC, Qualcomm, Samsung, SAP, SEAT, SK Telecom, Sony Mobile, Telefónica, Toyota, VMware, Vodafone, Xiaomi and ZTE, among others.  

Politics was top of mind  

There was an “overwhelming sense of political tension in the city,” wrote Katie Collins of CNET. 

“King Felipe of Spain was in town, but not everyone was happy about it. The king comes every year for the show, but following the failed referendum in October 2017, his presence was more contentious than usual.”  

The residents of the Spanish region of Catalonia voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Spain. However, the Constitutional Court of Spain declared the vote unconstitutional. King Felipe called the referendum “illegal” during a Spanish television broadcast.

As a result, Ada Colau Ballano, the mayor of Barcelona issued a statement on Facebook. “Barcelona is ready for a new edition of the MWC that promises to be a success,” she said. “We are a city open to the world, cosmopolitan, proud of its diversity and innovative. We are also a city committed to freedom of expression, peace and human rights, and we therefore call for respect.”  

Moreover, Carles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia until he was recently forced into exile following the referendum, urged people to support the protest that took place before the show and said on Twitter, using the official hashtag #MWC18, that King Felipe would be welcome in Barcelona when he apologized for his role in voiding the referendum for Catalonia’s independence. 

Riots were rampant.  

Big announcements were scarce  

After a hiatus, Samsung returned to MWC to launch its latest flagship phone – the Galaxy S9 and Google unveiled its new Android Go devices. Other than that, there was no significant news coming out of this show. Cherlynn Low of Engadget put it, “The most interesting thing to have happened this show has been snow falling in Barcelona.”  

Key Themes  

Themes most talked about at the show included Artificial Intelligence, IoT & Edge Computing, Software-Defined Networks (SDN), Big data & data analytics, Enhanced Voice Services (EVS), Net Neutrality and borderless connectivity and of course, 5G and LTE.  

According to Peter Jarich, VP of Consumer and Infrastructure at Current Analysis, “5G was perhaps less of a theme than it was last year, even though there were real standards and use cases to discuss this time, and even the first live consumer demonstrations at the Korean Winter Olympics. The relative decline of 5G hype reflected a maturing of the industry’s viewpoint as deployments come closer – that the next generation networks will not be just about a radio upgrade or a new iPhone, but will need to entail a complete transformation of architectures and business models to justify the investment.”  


Smartphone sales have peaked. According to a recent report by Gartner, worldwide sales of smartphones recorded the first ever decline during the fourth quarter of 2017. Perhaps this is why the world’s top smartphone brands struggled to unveil any new and exciting features during the largest mobile show on the planet.  

Instead, the weather and local politics were the most talked about things at the show. Several attendees noted that MWC was “underwhelming”, “uneventful”, “strangely quiet” and “more low-key than usual.” 

Others disagreed. Thomas Hasselman, CMO at Quuppa found the energy at the show to be both “positive and curious.”  

“Overall, I believe MWC18 lived up to the hype,” concluded Will Townsend, senior analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. “Despite the wet and chilly weather in Barcelona, MWC18 delivered the goods. As evidenced by the wholehearted support of carriers, infrastructure providers and everyone’s willingness to collaborate…”  

“Although this was our busiest MWC ever, this year’s event felt a little less exciting, with a more intimate C-level crowd,” noted Erika Collins, Marketing Director at InfoVista. Despite this, “Our objective was to meet existing and prospective customers, as well as media and analysts. Our stand was busy from the time we arrived in the morning to when we left at the end of the day, so this was once again a very successful show for us.”  

While the reviews were mixed, we agree with Collins that “MWC is still THE event in which to meet industry peers and customers.”  

Up Next  

Mobile World Congress Shanghai will be held on June 27-29, 2018.
Mobile World Congress Americas will take place September 12-14, 2018 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2019 will be held February 25-28, 2019. 

Articles of Interest  

Did Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2018 Deliver?


Mar 6, 2018  

The big difference between MWC and the Geneva Motor Show is …

The Verge

Mar 10, 2018  

The best and worst of Mobile World Congress 2018

The Verge

Feb 28, 2018  

The focus of Mobile World Congress 2018 is 5G, AI, IoT and beyond


Mar 7, 2018  

MWC 2018 remembered more for political unease than tech


Mar 11, 2018  

Mobile World Congress 2018: 5 of the coolest things you need to know


Feb 28, 2018  

Mobile World Congress 2018: Don’t Expect 5G Service Anytime Soon

IEEE Spectrum

Mar 2, 2018  

Mobile World Congress 2018: What’s Next for Industry Innovation?

MarTech Series

Mar 10, 2018  

Audio wrap-up of Mobile World Congress

The Verge

Mar 2, 2018  

MWC roundup: All the things we saw at 2018’s Mobile World Congress

Android Police

Mar 6, 2018  

The appeal of Mobile World Congress for startups is starting to wane


Feb 28, 2018  

Galaxy S9, 5G: Our favorite things from MWC (The 3:59, Ep. 364)


Mar 5, 2018  

Mobile World Congress shifts focus from gadgets to 5G

Financial Times

Mar 1, 2018  

Looking Back on Mobile World Congress 2018


Mar 5, 2018  

Industry Voices—Jarich on Mobile World Congress 2018: 5G bumps …


Mar 5, 2018  

That’s A Wrap: Mobile World Congress Delights, Impresses

Enterprise Mobility Exchange

Mar 5, 2018  

Mobile World Congress 2018: This year’s key themes

Rethink Research

Mar 8, 2018  

FCC Chair Ajit Pai defends net neutrality repeal to doubters at MWC


Feb 26, 2018

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