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Why is Mobile World Congress not called Mobile Connectivity Congress?

Someone (like me!) visiting the MWC for the first time, with no preconceived ideas, might well find themselves wondering why is it called MOBILE World Congress. The variety of industries, applications, activities on display in Barcelona makes the overarching theme open to interpretation.

By: EBR - Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Searching the past you can find out that MWC has had several identity changes as it has evolved over the years.
Searching the past you can find out that MWC has had several identity changes as it has evolved over the years.

by N. Peter Kramer 


Searching the past you can find out that MWC has had several identity changes as it has evolved over the years. In the 90’s it was known as GSM World Congress, reflecting a strict technology alignment. With the arrival of UMTS it became 3GSM World Congress in 2001. Six years later, when mobile operators worldwide signalled their intent to converge on a singular cellular standard for 4G, it was given the name it still has: Mobile World Congress. 

These changes follow a narrative of expansion and inclusivity. UMTS brought with it brand new operators with no 2G legacy, hence the subtle but important addition of that ‘3’. The end of a far more significant industry was reflected in the next change, as the sometimes bitterly opposed GSM and CDMA camps laid down their arms on common ground of LTE. With each new technology came more options and more operators. 

Is 2015 the time for another change? MWC is no longer an event that deals exclusively in ‘mobile’. ‘Connectivity World Congress’ may be worth considering. It maintains a link to event’s roots while continuing to address the broader mix of underlying technologies that can be harnessed to give smartphone users the connectivity they seek. Specifically it would create the right environment for the meaningful integration of Wi-Fi into the connectivity service that mobile operators provide. Succesful mobile operators will be the ones that dispense with technology-aligned thinking and offer connectivity first. 

At the beginning of this article I was talking about the evolution of the illustrious event now called Mobile World Congress. I am told that one of its original purposes was to facilitate the establishment of international roaming agreements between operators so that their customers could have the same experience moving from one network to another.  A lot has changed since then, the show’s name included.  But the challenge of continuity remains!

This article is the fourth in a series for EBR webdossier ‘Digital, data and the day after tomorrow’. The next article: ‘Net neutrality, EU- or US way?’ will follow in a few days.

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