Mobile World Congress underway in Barcelona

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A scaled-back version of the world’s biggest mobile fair got underway Monday in Spain under tight virus controls.

 

“We are back to business, we are back to Barcelona, we are back together,” Mats Granryd, director general of the industry association that stages the congress, the GSMA, said in an opening address. The event, which is usually held in February, is taking place this year both in-person at Barcelona’s main conference centre as well as digitally, with an online appearance by tech billionaire Elon Musk among the highlights.

Participants will only be allowed into the congress if they have a negative Covid-19 test result which is less than 72 hours old and will have to sign a daily declaration that they are in good health. Organisers have limited attendance to 50,000 as part of virus control measures, compared with a normal attendance of around 100,000. They expect 30,000-35,000 people to actually attend.

Many major firms like Samsung, the world’s top smartphone maker, Nokia, Google and Facebook have pulled out of the in-person event, citing virus concerns although some will take part virtually. China’s beleaguered Huawei, whose smartphone business has been battered by US sanctions, will be the biggest handset maker with a physical presence at the show alongside telecoms operators such as Orange and Telefonica.