By Ben Hunt
If I had written this blog on Monday I would probably have concluded that attendance at Mobile World Congress 2009 was dramatically down on 2008. Aside from visual evaluation – how crowded is the crowd? – I know of only one other sure fire method of measuring attendance: the length of time it takes to walk from NSN’s stand at one end of Hall 8 to our hospitality suite at the other. Yesterday it was pretty quick. Not once did I get caught up behind great groups of people gawking at the hundreds of images being displayed on screens of all shapes and sizes.
Because Monday tends to be media day, there is a tendency amongst us comms types to think of Monday as being the busiest day of the show as it tends to be press conference day. But in reality lots of people are still arriving on Monday and Tuesday is the perhaps the most crowded day of the show. So today my infrequent journeys back and forth between stand and hospitality have a lot slower and I have had to take a lot more evasive manouevers and perform a lot of over-taking moves. The NSN stand seems to have been mobbed for most of the morning with a lot of customers and others observing the various demos on display, and our marketing colleagues in their stylish grey fleece jackets have been earning this evening’s tapas. (The neighbouring Nokia stand is also packed like a London Underground train at rush hour and the new handsets launched this week seem to have gone down extremely well – my personal favourite is the the E75, the side-sliding full Qwerty smartphone, a seriously glamorous piece of kit, which I now have my sites set on as the replacement for my gracefully aging E61).
So the highways and byways of the Fira are actually pretty crowded, and my unscientific assessment of the attendance is that it’s down, but not too much, and I would guess that the GSMA would be pretty pleased at how well attendance has held up.
The media lounge has been pretty busy too with a host of spokespeople being interviewed, including CFO Luca Maestri, CTO Stephan Scholz and Juha-Erkki Mantyniemi; NSN’s head of environmental . Over at Nokia’s stand a number of investors have passed through quizzing spokespeople including Rajeev Suri about NSN.
And what do they all – journalists, investors, others – want to talk about? Well, as Barry French already pointed out today, mobile broadband in general and LTE in particular has been a frequent topic of discussion. Our services capability has also been widely discussed, and the response to that has been very positive.
And then, of course, there is the “R” word. Recession. (One journalist yesterday actually used the “D” word, but let’s not go there.) How long? How deep? Who? Why? What? It is an inevitable focus for any industry right now.
Generally though, the response to these questions has perhaps been a little more upbeat than I might have expected. While it would be a stretch to say that anyone here was optimistic about the short-term future of the mobile industry, the sense is that things are not as bad as the avalanche of doom-laden headlines would suggest.
Whether this is an accurate evaluation of the scenario will be judged by history. Or by how long it takes me to walk the length of Hall 8 at Mobile World Congress 2010.