Mobile World Congress, one of the most notable events in the yearly technology trade show calendar, was the first major conference casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. And since COVID isn’t going away any time soon, the GSMA has confirmed that it’s delayed Mobile World Congress 2021 from its usual late February/early March date to June of next year.
For the moment, Mobile World Congress is scheduled for June 28th-July 1st, in its usual home at the Fira de Barcelona event center in Spain. The in-person show floor, meetings, and press events will still occur, bolstered by virtual streaming events.
The GSMA press release only hints at the possibility that the event might be moved once again, or cancelled, or transitioned to an all-virtual conference, as CES 2021 has done already. “The GSMA continues to work closely with the Host City Parties, and the decision to change the date of MWC21 Barcelona follows a period of planning and consultation with all major stakeholders.”
A delay of a few months is already a huge blow to companies who had planned to show off new mobile devices in early 2021. As we’ve seen before, the organizers of these events are hesitant to make any major decisions until no alternatives are available. Barring a drastic turn of events for the better, further delays or transitioning to an online-only event seem like definite possibilities.
Watching Mobile World Congress, CES, and E3 all go down like dominoes has forced the tech world to face some bitter realities sooner than it might have otherwise. The technology industry was already shifting to smaller, single-company events for major announcements, making the big conferences less relevant. It still remains to be seen if large conferences will exist at all when the current crisis is resolved.
That could mean a pretty huge shift in the way the tech world operates, and it would be an even bigger shift for the business-to-business side. Smaller companies, without the resources to put on their own events and stream out to the media, might be placed at even more of a disadvantage without the usual meetings and networking that events like MWC provide.