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Trends every PR needs to know from Mobile World Congress

Credit: Jasmin Athwal, head of technology and business development at agency WE Communications

Last week, Mobile World Congress returned with a bang. The annual mobile industry jamboree returned to Barcelona for its biggest event for five years, with 100,000 delegates descending on the Spanish city. As well as acting as a true return to form, this year’s MWC also struck a markedly different tone. 12 months on from the explosion of Generative AI, for the most part, the glitz, glamour and curtain unveiling of devices gave way to sober analysis on the future of the industry and its role in the global digital economy.

This year’s Mobile World Congress felt like a coming of age for the global telco sector - an overdue realisation of its integral role in facilitating the next phase of economic growth. This shift in tone has demanded a pivot from communications teams and this year’s MWC saw mobile brands overtly communicating their future intent in a thinly veiled effort to outrun the efforts of regulators as the conversation on AI evolves by the hour.

The rise of AI

As was the case with Generative AI itself, Microsoft sought to claim first mover advantage by setting out its stall at MWC. Last week, Microsoft announced its AI Access Principles, a manifesto declaring its intent to use AI in a responsible way and for good, which was swiftly followed by a commitment to open up its AI ecosystem to developers. This announcement was a clear attempt by Microsoft to meet the moment at MWC - a proactive commitment of its intent to deploy its technology for global economic good, something that will make it more difficult for regulators to introduce heavy-handed restrictions.

As well as looking to the future, some themes out of MWC appear to have been shaped by recent challenges. After a decade where the telco sector has been dogged by stagnant growth, this year’s MWC appeared to suggest that the industry has realized fostering a culture of collaboration may be the route back to consistent growth.

GSMA Open Gateway

In that spirit, CEO of Telefonica José María Álvarez-Pallete was keen to talk up the success of the GSMA Open Gateway, an initiative that recognises the importance of the API (application programing interfaces) economy and seeks to make critical technology available to all. As of this week, 47 mobile operators and 239 networks were active on the GSMA Open Gateway, which is symbolic of an industry that is slowly recognising that blind competition was creating a race to the bottom.

The industry grows up

So has MWC finally ‘grown up’? Perhaps. As the sun sets on this year’s event and the empty Estrella bottles are collected, this year felt different. The seismic technological shift that Generative AI created may have dictated this, but it feels like the telco sector is ready to usher in a new era of collaboration.

At a time where technology is evolving so fast that nobody can claim to have all the answers, the mobile industry appears to be developing the self-awareness to realise that historic competitive behaviours may well have undermined the potential of the industry. It feels different, but in a good way and if the industry continues in this vein, it is the consumer that stands to reap the greatest benefit.

Key take outs

  1. A move toward sober, long-term economic analysis over glitzy consumer product unveils.
  2. A greater spirit of collaboration across the telco industry.
  3. Communications teams an integral part to mobile brands trying to get ahead of regulators.
  4. All of this can only benefit the consumer.

Written by Jasmin Athwal, head of technology and business development at agency WE Communications

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