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MWC 2019: Barcelona aftermath

Once again we concluded the annual week of mobile people in Barcelona. The official program was full of 5G, IoT, AI, Edge and all other usual suspects. The week includes always some new things, but also several things that never change. Let’s look at the unofficial part of the event in this year.

The weather was extremely nice, especially compared to the last year, when it was snowing. The coffee and catering places at the event offered no surprises, they still offer the highest prices, slowest customer service, and most tasteless sandwiches in Barcelona. This year anyway their mobile payment terminals were mainly working, that was something new.

Barcelona’s public transportation is good. But the metro workers seem to create a tradition to hold strikes during MWC. This year they offered limited services during rush hours. It is a good way to get all visitors to notice them.

WiFi services in Barcelona have made very positive progress during the last 5 years. Then many cheaper or event better hotels and coffee places had no or very poor WiFi. Now most places offer very good WiFi and internet speed, the same also in the conference center.

If we look at the event itself, it was quite traditional without big surprises or new formats. 4YFN is a startup-oriented event. Most startups are on region or government sponsored booths. Maybe people at the stands would be more active in looking for contacts if they had paid full price for the event.

My colleague asked from me what has happened to companies that were at 4YFN four or five years ago. Based on the event name (4 Years From Now), they should be at the main event. But I haven’t seen any statistics around if that has actually happened, or what has actually happened to those firms. These kinds of stats and stories of companies would make the event much more interesting and would show real commitment to develop the event and select interesting companies.

The main event has some long running traditions. One of them is the RCS messaging services panel discussions. Outside MWC you could think RCS is dead or actually it was never born, but at MWC you can always see some sessions where people seriously talk that it is just coming and going to change ways to make business and customer communications.

Another nice tradition in the event is that if you want to meet some Finns (for whatever strange reason), you can go see Nokia’s retro phones and see Finns who feel nostalgic next to them. If you are lucky, you don’t understand Finnish and hear the stories “I remember when I got my banana phone in 1997, when I changed my job, and it is the best phone I have ever got, and its battery lasted two weeks.”

Generally, Huawei phones got much more attention this year than Nokia’s phones. I also went to see them. Maybe my joke was over-used or totally new, but a lady at Huawei stand refused to understand me when I asked “please, can you tell me if this is a spy phone.”

It would be sometimes nice to conduct surveys at the event to gauge whether people understand all those popular terms. I would like to see how visitors explain industry 4.0, blockchain, AI and edge with their own words. It could really expand the meaning of the terms. Something like a telco person explained that telco blockchain is better than a public one, because the telco can control blockchain users and transactions, and approve them and make it safer. I had thought the idea of blockchain is to be a distrusted system without central authority and dependency on central points.

In the nice weather terrace areas were very popular at the event. One of them was Salesforce Garden, including their advertising and presentations. All seats were taken when the sun was shining. A lady from Salesforce was angry and talked loudly to another Salesforce person “why do we have no seats, we have sponsored this, why are there no seats reserved for Salesforce people.” Maybe the reason was that they wanted to get visitors and customers to sit there. Someone could call it customer relationship management, I think that is somehow linked to Salesforce’s history too?

Cars seem to always be popular at the event. And it is easy to understand that they are more exciting than some network boxes, diagrams of 5G-IoT-Edge network configurations or phones that look like any other phone. The official excuse to bring cars there is to connect some communications equipment to them. The real reason is that then people stop to look at your stand and take photos. This year the car theme took an extra step, when the event offered complimentary tickets to the last F1 winter testing day at Barcelona circuit. Those F1 cars actually really represent modern communications and data analytics technology and they are actually moving unlike many of those strange concept cars at stands; except, of course, Williams F1 car.

The week is over, business people returned to home starting to wonder what impact those things at the event have on their work, Barcelona metro workers returned to normal work shifts, F1 drivers go to Australia and consultants to develop new diagrams and abbreviations. MWC is always a nice milestone in the life of mobile business people, update latest offering and rumors and see if anything has changed in the business, and fortunately not too much. Many people talk about virtualization of networks, but when someone really does it, it would be a nasty surprise to this audience.