MWC: origin, history and curiosities of the Mobile World Congress

Did you know that the Mobile World Congress has been held in Barcelona since 2006?

Communication Team


Reading time: 5 min

What is the Mobile World Congress

The MWC is considered to be the most relevant world fair in the mobile communication sector and where tens of thousands of people enjoy the latest technological innovations from a large number of companies.

An annual congress that allows numerous professional profiles to be up to date on everything that has to do with the most cutting-edge technological advances and highlights of the sector through lectures, conferences and demonstrations.

The institution behind the event is the GSMA, an organization that unites “more than 1,000 mobile operators and companies from across the ecosystem and related industries to promote innovation and reduce inequalities around the world”.

Its current chairman is also Telefónica’s chief executive, José María-Álvarez Pallete, and it is headquartered in London.

History of the GSMA

The origin of this organization dates back to 1982, when the Groupe Speciale Mobile (GSM) was formed by the European Post and Telecommunications Confederation (CEPT) “to design a pan-European mobile technology”.

The GSMA as such came into being in 1995, and began as the GSM MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) Association.

GSM World Congress, the origin of the MWC

The origin of the event is considered to be in 1987 in Brussels with the “Pan Europe Digital Cellular Radio” conference, although without the characteristics of an event as it would later develop.

The 1990 GSM World Congress in Rome already had a format more similar to the current one. During the following years the venues were itinerant (Nice, Lisbon, Athens or Berlin), and the 1995 edition was even held in Madrid.

One year later, in 1996, the GSM World Congress was established in the French city of Cannes, where it remained for ten editions until 2005. At this location the event was consolidated and attendance soared from around 2,000 attendees to 24,000.

Barcelona as the MWC venue

After leaving Cannes, in 2006 the fair settled in what still remains its location: Barcelona, specifically both the Catalan capital and the neighboring town of Hospitalet de Llobregat.

When is the MWC in Barcelona

As we have just mentioned, Barcelona has been hosting the Mobile World Congress since 2006 and always between the months of February and March, with the exception of 2021, when it was held in late June and early July due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A pandemic that had caused, for the first and only time so far, the cancellation of the event in the 2020 edition, scheduled for February 24-27 of that year.

Attendees at the MWC in Barcelona

The 2023 edition closed with 88,500 attendees, according to data from the organization on its own website, a figure that is again approaching the 100,000 visitors that were surpassed in previous editions.

Specifically, the record is found in 2019 with 109,000 attendees, a figure slightly higher than the 108,000 and 107,000 that, respectively, gathered in the years of 2017 and 2018.

Back in 2015 and 2016, the numbers were approaching six digits, specifically 93,000 and 94,000 visitors.

The post-pandemic editions have had lower numbers, especially in 2021, with 20,000 attendees. This is because there were still different restrictions and limitations throughout the world, especially in Asia, one of the main sources of attendance at the event.

2022 welcomed 60,000 people, a figure that reached 88,500 in the 2023 edition.

The forecast is for some 95,000 visitors to Barcelona by 2024.


In parallel to the celebration of the MWC, 4YFN (Four Years From Now) celebrates 10 years as one of the reference events for the international entrepreneurial system in which technology startups, investors, corporations and even public institutions meet with the aim of generating synergies and business agreements.

As they explain on their own website, “the event not only brings together all the players you need for a winning digital startup (such as investors and corporate innovators), but also puts startups on the radar of the most powerful decision makers in the connectivity ecosystem, such as CEOs of global companies. mobile operators and cutting-edge technology companies”.

Something that “helps give commercial startups the wings they need for an impressive launch.”

Telefónica at MWC

Mobile would not be Mobile without the presence of Telefónica, an event in which the company has presented countless projects and demonstrations as well as the most innovative solutions.

In this video you can relive what the 2023 edition of the Mobile World Congress was like for Telefónica:

Telefónica at MWC 24

In the year of Telefónica’s centenary, the company offers attendees the stand located in Hall 3 – 3K31, in the innovation event 4YFN in Hall 8.1 – A41, online or in the virtual stand, where they will be able to experience demonstrations of some of our most innovative solutions.

In addition, we will have more than 25 open sessions in our Agora, with leading experts and speakers from the technology industry and different sectors, with live demonstrations in conferences that will be broadcast live.

This edition of the MWC coincides with Telefónica’s first century of life, which is somewhat paradoxical: in a world in which people’s life expectancy is increasingly higher, in companies it is increasingly shorter.

A circumstance that has come about for one reason: the ability to adapt. Telefónica’s history is one of anticipating change: from being born as a voice company we have gone from being a voice company to a data company, from copper to fiber and from operating in a single country to being a global company.

As we explained in the MWC brochure, “we are now committed to change again. Change to lead a new era of progress. A revolution capable of rewriting the history of companies and people… and yes, also our own”.

Times that open up a new world of business opportunities, where open networks are key to fostering innovation while driving profitable and sustainable growth.

With this world ahead of us, let’s imagine what we will be able to do in the next hundred years.

Telefónica at 4YFN

As in previous editions, the company will also be participating in 4YFN. In our MWC microsite you can also find everything related to Telefónica’s participation in 4YFN.


Throughout the article we have discovered the origin, history and some curiosities about the Mobile World Congress, the world reference event in mobile telephony in particular and technology in general.

An event in which hundreds of thousands of people, both face-to-face and digitally, are waiting for the latest news that are presented there.

Given the almost endless amount of information generated during these days of the fair, and even in advance in the days before, we invite you to visit Telefónica’s MWC microsite so that you do not miss any of our intense activity related to the event.


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