MWC Barcelona 2023: debate | inspiration | business
On 27 February – 2 March, the GSMA welcomed more than 88,500 attendees from 202 countries and territories to MWC Barcelona 2023, the world’s largest and most influential connectivity event. The GSMA Ministerial Programme convened with the highest number of delegations ever, with 196 delegations from over 150 countries, nearly 70 ministers and over 100 heads of regulatory authorities.
The event theme “Velocity” was brought to life in key themes discussed across multiple platforms. These included 5G, AI, the fair share debate and public policy, as well as cross-sector collaborations, including the GSMA’s Open Gateway initiative. The GSMA also launched a dedicated zone at MWC Barcelona to raise awareness of the usage gap, an under-reported global issue which prevents 3.2 billion people worldwide from reaping the benefits of access to digital services.
GSMA Europe is pleased to share with you some of the key highlights from this exceptional event.
Big focus on Europe in MWC keynotes
A vision of an open future
The opening MWC Barcelona keynote was not to be missed with Mats Granryd, GSMA Director General, and Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete, Chairman & CEO of Telefónica, focusing on the new era for the connectivity industry and the launch of much anticipated the GSMA Open Gateway initiative.
Orange CEO Christel Heydemann delivered a dour summary of the crunch being felt by Europe’s mobile operators, with contradictory pressures to meet ever-rising traffic, mostly originating from large digital players, while keeping prices low and squeezing costs. EU Commissioner Thierry Breton outlined his vision for the future of telecoms and presented what is next for the fair share debate in Europe.
Deutsche Telekom CEO Timotheus Hoettges highlighted disparities between the European mobile market and its global counterparts, including a 5G coverage rate of 73 per cent compared with 96 per cent in the US and around 90 per cent in Asia Pacific and argued that enabling operators to capitalise on their investments would bring broad benefits in terms of digitalisation and even for the environment, citing the lower power consumption of 5G networks relative to earlier generations.
Telecom Italia CEO Pietro Labriola urged a relaxation of rules imposed on operators in Europe and called for the creation of a level playing field with digital providers and more openness to consolidation, while airing grievances about an industry requirement to switch off legacy systems.
Europe’s Digital Decade at MWC23
The GSMA and the European Internet Forum organised a high-level roundtable debate which drew in Members of the European Parliament, the European Commission, national regulatory authorities, and industry representatives to re-evaluate the progress towards 2030 Digital Decade targets. Opened by the GSMA’s Daniel Pataki and EIF’s Pilar del Castillo (MEP and EIF Chair), participants discussed how to accelerate the connectivity infrastructure deployment, investment gap and addressed the fair share topic. Key speakers included Renate Nikolay (DG CNECT), Konstantinos Masselos (BEREC Chair 2023), and Ben Wreschner (Vodafone).
The EIF and GSMA also organised the MWC23 tour for MEPs, during which the delegation visited stands of mobile operators, including telecom vendors, and other industry players as well as a meeting with ICANN CEO Theresa Swinehart.
Debate with Europe’s Regulators
The annual GSMA-BEREC Regulatory Roundtable at MWC23 convened BEREC delegates and GSMA Policy Group Europe members to discuss key issues the industry is facing in Europe. Participants shared views on the impact of the recent development such as inflation and the energy crisis on the sector and the implications stemming from the increasing focus on European sovereignty, what regulators can do to further promote investment in connectivity, and how the digital transition can contribute to Europe’s climate ambitions.
MWC23 exhibition tour was also organized for the BEREC delegation as part of their visit.
From the GSMA Ministerial Programme stage
“Network Investment”, “Ask the Regulator”, “Re-examining Mobile Market Structure”, and “WRC-23 and Spectrum for Growth” were among the most watched sessions of the GSMA Ministerial Programme. Speakers including Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter, DG Connect Deputy Director General Renate Nikolay, and BEREC Chair 2023 Konstantinos Masselos, focused on key areas facing the mobile industry today.
All sessions are now available on demand for Ministerial Programme pass holders.
Meetings with region’s governments and authorities
At the Ministerial Programme, GSMA Europe met with a number of delegations, including: German State Secretary for Digital and Transport Stefan Schnorr; Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Petra de Sutter; BEREC; the Ukrainian National Regulatory Authority; the European Commission; and representatives from Kazakhstan, Georgia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
Reports launched at MWC Barcelona
See you next year!
We hope you enjoyed your time in Barcelona. An enormous thank you to all attendees, exhibitors, sponsors and partners, plus everyone else who helped make it one of the best global tech and startup events of the year.
Join us at MWC Barcelona 2024, which will take place 26-29 February 2024, when we’ll be back, bigger and better than ever.