Last month, Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2021 announced the event had been greenlit by the GSMA and Ministry of the Interior of the Government of Spain. It will be one of the first and largest European trade shows to take place since Covid-19 restrictions were installed. Here’s what you need to know.

Hybrid Event

Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2021 (MWC21 Barcelona) will be a hybrid event for the first time, blending virtual experience with onsite activities. Online pass holders will be able to explore virtual exhibitions and network via video before, during and after the show. Keynote speeches, conference sessions, partner programmes and summits will be live-streamed and available on-demand, catering to viewers from across every time zone. The portal also enables attendees to directly interact with each other as well as exhibitors in real-time.

All MWC21 Barcelona registrants – including exhibitors, attendees, sponsors, and partners – can enter Spain to attend the in-person event. Any national from a country outside the EU cannot enter unless they are a specific group of people who are exempt, including ‘highly qualified workers’. The decision from the Spanish government includes MWC21 Barcelona registrants in this category.

The GSMA, the events organiser, will share details of MWC21 Barcelona registrants with Spanish authorities to facilitate entry into the country. This shift allows entry to those registrants who are currently denied entry, including those from China and the USA, to enter Spain for the purposes of attending and doing business at MWC21.

John Hoffman, CEO GSMA Ltd, said: “The health and safety of everyone involved in MWC Barcelona, both in Spain and beyond, continues to be our utmost priority as we navigate rapidly shifting circumstances. This decision is a resounding vote of confidence in the careful planning undertaken to date, and our strong partnership with the Host City Parties. We will continue to work closely with our partners to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience”.

Mobile World Congress Barcelona

MWC 2017 saw the launch of the first all-electric racing car. Image: Mobile World Congress Barcelona.

Exhibitors & Speakers

The theme of this year’s event is Connected Impact. The programme will explore how AI, 5G, Big Data, and IoT will shape the future and continue to transform lives.

“They say that times of crisis accelerate progress and innovation. The impact of this global pandemic has proved no exception to that thinking. The rate of change is phenomenal, and this will be a feature in the MWC programme”, said Hoffman. “There’s nothing that beats building relationships in person, and I am consistently encouraged by the collective desire to come back together”.

Over 400 international startups will exhibit their latest products within the ‘Innovation Market’ and 150 speakers will share insights that will drive the ecosystem forward. In the 4YFN Discovery Area, 200 startups will pitch, hoping to attract the attention of leading funds, VCs, and CVCs.

Over 600 keynote and conference speakers will discuss a wide range of industries from mobile and healthcare to cloud and finance. Some guests include:

  • Julie Sweet, CEO, Accenture
  • Shuky Sheffer, CEO, Amdocs
  • Zina Jarrahi Cinker, Director General, AMPT
  • Yang Jie, Chairman, China Mobile
  • Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA
  • Arvind Krishna, CEO, IBM
  • Eugene Kaspersky, CEO, Kaspersky
  • Ana Maiques, CEO, Neuroelectrics
  • Sarah Wilkinson, CEO, NHS Digital
  • Stéphane Richard, Chief Executive and Chairman, Orange


GSMA partner with Accenture to bring this year’s Diversity4Tech programme. Building on Women4Tech, expanding conversations to include the case for diversity and inclusion in business, the Diversity4Tech Summit is packed with talks, panels, and awards to “influence and accelerate change whilst inspiring the mobile ecosystem to demonstrate authentic leadership”.

Mobile World Congress Barcelona

The theme of this year’s event is Connected Impact. Image: Mobile World Congress Barcelona

New this year, the Investors Programme features a summit dedicated to knowledge sharing among the investor community. Recent trends such as investments during COVID-19, fund-IPOs, and tokenization will be discussed. The programme also includes an exciting new impact partnership with UNDP and the Impact Awards, aiming to find the best digital startups driving positive impact towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The 2021 event aims to be carbon-neutral, much like the 2019 edition, which was officially certified by AENOR International. That certification secured the event as the world’s largest carbon-neutral tradeshow. The GSMA is working to further reduce the event’s environmental impact and carbon footprint as part of its overall leadership on climate action.

At the heart of the event, the GSMA Ministerial Programme will convene policymakers to discuss digital inclusion, network resilience, and maximising the potential of 5G. “With much of the world gradually emerging from the Covid-19 crisis, now is the moment to reflect on policies that support digital connectivity, innovation and, critically, economic recovery”, said John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer at the GSMA. “The Ministerial Programme at MWC Barcelona always delivers timely, meaningful dialogue and debate — and we are glad to be back”.

The event begins June 28th and ends July 1st 2021. You can find more information and register to attend Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2021 on its website.

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