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It’s make or break for MWC

Posted by Darren Willsher on 31st January 2013

Ah MWC again, time for the annual telecom-tapas fest. This year though is a make or break year for the show. After polling their members, the GSMA voted to stay in Barcelona for the next few years but instead at a different venue.

As with any decision ever made, it’s not been without its critics. This being a quite glorious comment from Dean Bubley of Disruptive Wireless in his 2013 predictions.

“Everyone will hate the new venue for MWC13. I’m not going – if I fancied a week on an industrial park next to IKEA, I’d go to Neasden as it’s closer.”

Location, location, location

Some of this critcism is well placed though – the old venue wasn’t perfect, it took ages to get anywhere, was easy to get lost and decent food was hard to come by – and lord help you if you were desperate for the loo. But it was just stunning, the location was incredible and it was well served by the metro, with plenty of local bars and cafes a few minute walk off site.

The last two years I’ve stayed in apartments that were only a 10/15 minute walk to the show, a pleasant start to the day especially now it’s moved to a slightly warmer time of year.

The show of course has had its challenges before, remember when Nokia pulled out and tried to go it alone? That went well…

Good news for home furnishing fans

However the new venue has no metro line (It’s overground trains and buses unless you can find a taxi) and isn’t really near anything of note (well, apart from IKEA, but easyJet might object to putting a flatpack wardrobe in as hand luggage). Granted free time is never easy to come by, but being able to walk for 5 minutes off site to a nice tapas bar and grab a beer while watching the world go by was handy.

Of course there are many advantages: more stand space, more seats for the keynotes, more networking space and more places on site to eat and drink, all of which is usefully explained here.

This time though, with budgets under even more scrutiny, it needs to really justify its value. It’s not a cheap show to attend, tickets just to wander around are well over £500 and some of the prices I’ve heard for stand space (let alone the cost of the stand itself) are eye watering. There were a few empty spaces last year and this venue is even bigger…

Show me the money

Journalists as well are starting to question the value in going, with some of the regulars giving 2013 a miss.

If people turn up, find the venue uninspiring, the transport links frustrating and the ROI just too hard to justify, the show could have a challenge on its hands for next year. CTIA has been struggling the last few years with visitor numbers declining and other shows are seeing more people stay away as budgets get tighter.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure post-show there will be a nice release talking about how even more people attended than 2012, but if the venue isn’t great then people will only accept this if the show delivers a clear and impressive ROI – without this, MWC 2014 could see people looking elsewhere.

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Darren Willsher

Darren has been with Wildfire for six years and is one of the driving forces behind the agency’s telecoms and networking portfolio, with experience working on a range of international, multi-channel accounts including CSR, Picochip (now Mindspeed), Real Wireless, The Small Cell Forum, Samsung and Allied Telesis.