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MWC 2021 will be an in-person event in Barcelona and it’s asking for trouble

The cancellation of Mobile World Congress 2020 was a watershed moment for the tech industry. It was a sign the pandemic was going to change the way new products were announced and showcased to the world. At least for a while.

We haven’t had an in-person event since and are unlikely to for the foreseeable future, at least until June, when MWC event organiser GSMA Limited plans to go forth with a plan to host up to 50,000 people in Barcelona.

GSMA Limited CEO John Hoffman said the capacity would be reduced by more than half compared with the 110,000 who descended upon Catalonia – ourselves included – in 2019.

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All that being said, if inviting 50,000 people to fly into Barcelona, mingle with each other and then fly home to mix with their countryfolk sounds like a terrible idea, you’re certainly not alone.

Speaking to Mobile World Live, the event organisers say a forthcoming MWC Shanghai event will be the first global tech event since the pandemic gathered pace, and will help it set standards for a European showcase, later than usual, in the summer.

“Shanghai is about establishing the ability to bring people together in a tech space. A successful show is nobody gets ill and we get to discuss, debate the importance of China in the global market,” Hoffman said.

“Barcelona will be a little bit different, it is the big stage. Covid requirements will decrease our capacity. We’re not going to have 110,000 people, with travel restrictions, testing capacity and one-way traffic through the exhibition, there’s no way.”

Hoffman says attendees will require a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of turning up in Barcelona, while there will be on-site testing too. The organisers also they will ensure the Barcelona event will be a touch-free environment. Considering we travel there to literally go hands-on with the latest tech, it’ll be interesting to see how all that shakes out.

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