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Mobile World Congress will proceed without vaccination requirements


Crowds view new smartphones at a prior MWC event.
Enlarge / Crowds view new smartphones at a prior MWC event.

Mobile World Congress (MWC) will move forward this year, but vaccination will not be required for attendance when the Barcelona event takes place in June, according to organizers.

“Our view is it would be great if the world was vaccinated, but we can’t rely on that in 2021, so instead we’re relying on testing upfront to ensure our bubble isn’t just the Fira Gran Via but the whole of Barcelona,” global mobile tech industry association GSMA’s CEO, John Hoffman, told Mobile World Live.

Attendees must test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of the event, with testing available on site. Further, the event’s organizers claim they will use some form of “technology” to create a “touchless environment” at the event, which is often at least partially focused on handling smartphones and other devices with touchscreens.

As a result of some of these changes, Hoffman said it will be a smaller event than in the past. “COVID requirements will decrease our capacity,” he said. “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.” He expects no more than 50,000 attendees this year.

Typically, the Barcelona event takes place earlier in the year, but this year it will be swapping windows with its Shanghai cousin, MWC Shanghai. That means MWC Shanghai will happen in the spring this year.

The GSMA opted to swap the events’ timing because China is “more open” than other regions with COVID-related travel restrictions. Hoffman also made the case to Mobile World Live that China is a “bubble” with protection against COVID-19 thanks to the country’s efforts to test for the virus and track its cases.

MWC Shanghai is a smaller event; it had 60,000 attendees in 2019. But this year, the capacity is set at 20,000. “We could have done it virtually,” Hoffman said of the Shanghai conference, “but in person we could take the learnings” to apply to the bigger Barcelona show later.

The mobile-focused tech conference is expected to focus heavily on the global 5G rollout. Over the past two years, major smartphone-makers have released 5G phones, promising that they will prepare users for a future mobile landscape with radically faster speeds and more reliable services in crowded locations. The 5G rollout is still nascent in most parts of the world, however.



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