This newspaper has got confirmation that Fira de Barcelona and GSMA, the company that organises the Mobile World Congress (MWC), have agreed to extend their contract for an additional year. The current contract was due to end in 2023 but, since this year’s show was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both parties have now agreed that Barcelona city will host the trade fair through to 2024.
That does not necessarily mean that the MWC will be moving to a different city after 2024. The city’s local institutions have always hoped that the trade show would remain in Barcelona for as many years as possible, but longer, more complex talks will be needed for that to happen. In contrast, this fast-track one-year extension is merely a way to make up for this year’s cancellation, our sources say.
Tacking on an extra year might pave the way for an agreement between both parties on the subject of who foots the bill of this year’s cancellation. At any rate, none of our sources mentioned this as being a key factor in securing the contract extension.
This news will provide some respite for the hotel and catering sectors, who were left without this year’s show back in February and are currently struggling due to the coronavirus crisis. Fira de Barcelona will also welcome the additional year, as the MWC provides more that one third of its annual revenue. The mobile communications trade show has been held in Barcelona city since 2006 and has become the leading event in the sector.
Furthermore, the growing debate across the world on the subject of 5G technology and its use by the global superpowers could even give the MWC greater prominence. China is currently the leader in 5G tech, with Huawei as its flagship company. This has raised the alarm in the US, who have brought their struggle with China over to the field of telecommunications.
In fact, initially some claimed that the MWC’s cancellation had nothing to do with the coronavirus, but was part of a campaign against China which sought to boycott the event, where Chinese companies —and, in particular, Huawei— have a high profile. Time has shown, though, that the COVID-19 threat was very real.