Better than anticipated

Joseph Waring
19 Feb 2009

The question on everyone's mind leading up the Mobile World Congress was how much of an impact the economic downturn would have on turnout and the overall mood.

While most exhibitors said traffic was down and the halls weren't as crowded as last year, everyone reported brisk booth activity. The keynote sessions on the first two days overflowed the main auditorium, with hundreds herded into other adjacent rooms.

Vendors told me the visitor quality was very good. Many said there were fewer lower level visitors, which thinned the crowds slightly and made navigating the maze of halls somewhat faster. One tier 1 network supplier said the quality has improved with lots of C-level executives.

Many expressed relief. A billing vendor executive said "we were afraid it would be worse." Another noted, "coming in we were concerned, but found activity very positive. We've been very busy."

A few companies did mention that some of their clients opted not to attend. And most exhibitors I spoke to said they had cut back on the total number attending, but all the major players showed up.

The big positives for those who did go were shorter taxi queues and faster service at the still few fast-food outlines. At peak times there were still modest queues at the entrances, but only because staff were checking photo IDs as a security measure (undoubtedly in response to the high number of thefts last year).

The GSMA said the visitor numbers were down some 10,000 attendees from a year ago - but given the economic climate (and hotel rates) it should be thrilled with 45,000.

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