Agustín Cordón: We want to show people what is really
transformational. We have a real industrial agenda
Before the end of March 2012, the city of Barcelona will announce the first of the projects that will turn it into the GSM Association’s Mobile World Capital and — it is hoped — make it the industry’s centre of innovation.
In July 2011 the GSMA conferred on Barcelona the right to continue to stage the congress and become the industry’s first Mobile World Capital after a fierce competition from — at the final stages — Milan, Munich and Paris. Amsterdam and Cologne were eliminated from the shortlist a few months earlier. At the start,
“Mobile World Capital is not a fashion project. It is a real industrial project,” says Agustín Cordón Barrenechea, the head of the project, which is backed by the government of Spain, the city of Barcelona and the regional government of Catalonia as well as by the GSMA.
Cordón is also the CEO of Fira Barcelona, the organisation that runs the Montjuïc venue where Mobile World Congress — formerly 3GSM — was hosted from 2006 to 2012. From next year it will be at Fira’s new site, Gran Via, three kilometres up the road: see panel.
MWC is not Fira’s biggest event, yet. A total of 128,000 people came to Construmat, a building trade show, held at Gran Via in 2011 — though almost all were from Spain. When it started its search for the new venue in August 2010, the GSMA specified that it wanted somewhere that can cater for 250,000 visitors.
Gran Via, designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito, has eight pavilions with 240,000 square metres of exhibition floor space. Montjuïc has eight halls with 115,000 square metres plus 50,000 square metres outdoors. Together — and the industry may well get there — 250,000 is just about doable.
But Mobile World Capital is deliberately more than just an expanded conference and exhibition. It is, says Cordón, a neutral place where operators — from Spain and beyond — and vendors will “have a real ecosystem” to test new applications and services. And he’s looking for companies outside telecoms — cars, energy and entertainment in particular — to see how they can use mobile technology.
“We want to show people what is really transformational,” says Cordón. “We have a real industrial agenda.”
The city is planning to announce “a factory for mobile solutions — a physical place” before the end of March, he says. “We are close to formal agreements,” he told Global Telecoms Business in Fira’s offices in Montjuïc. The organisation has its eye on a building in a former industrial area on the coast — a site dating from when Barcelona was called the Mediterranean Manchester. Though without the driving rain of the English industrial city.
It will be the Mobile World Hub, where mobile health, content, travel, wallet and a “smart city” project will be developed and tried out — including. “We have designed this agenda with the GSMA,” says Cordón. “There will be five competence centres.”
There will be NFC-based smart ticketing on the metro and the buses “in two years”, he promises. “We are working with the five main banks in Spain” on mobile wallet projects, he adds. “Our ambition is to transform Barcelona into the most active ecosystem in the world.”
But there will be fun, too. A building in the city centre will become a hands-on museum where the public can play with the new technology, and there will be a Mobile World Festival, a week-long annual event — probably in June 2013 — where mobile technology will be added to cultural events.
“There will be electronic music where people compose their own tunes on their mobiles,” said an official, or decide which song a performer will sing next. “The idea is to add mobile to events that are taking place in the city — including sport and concerts.”
The first stage of the sports part of the formula began on the penultimate day of Mobile World Congress 2012 when the famous Fútbol Club Barcelona signed an agreement to promote innovative mobile services in sports.
Sandro Rosell, the president of FC Barcelona, said at the launch that the club “wishes to help transform Barcelona into a global mobile reference”. He added: “Barça’s commitment to new technologies in recent times has been clear but we believe there is still a long way to go. This agreement will allow us to offer our members and fans better services through mobile applications.”
According to Cordón, the involvement of FC Barcelona “is a valuable contribution because of the club’s prestige worldwide, where it is admired for its sporting spirit and the values it embodies and transmits”.
Barça will take part in the m-content part of the programme, aimed at promoting new mobile services designed to enrich users’ leisure and entertainment experience. The project will promote new applications and services to improve the experience of watching or following a football match at or away from the pitch — what Mobile World Capital’s marketing people are calling an “enhanced football experience”.
Barcelona is probably a good place to try these new services. It is already a highly mobile-oriented city: sit — or, more likely, stand — on a crowded metro train below the city and most of the passengers are texting or speaking to their friends or are checking the web.
“We want to be a beacon for the world about mobile technology,” says Cordón. GTB
Where are we going? MWC visitors wonder how to get to Gran Via
As Montjuïc heaves with 67,000 visitors in 2012, locals have
fun at the new site
As the last of a record 67,000 exhausted visitors streamed out from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, most were unclear about the location of next year’s conference and exhibition.
It’s still in Barcelona, under the new contract with the GSM Association which named Barcelona as the industry’s Mobile World Capital until 2018.
But no longer will visitors emerge from Plaça Espanya metro station and stream in between the Venetian-style entrance towers while gazing up through the fountains to the National Palace on top of the hill of Montjuïc.
“It’s near the airport, isn’t it?” was the closest most people at this year’s event came to guessing where MWC will take place from 2013 onwards.
A year from now, this quiet suburban station will be crowded
with MWC visitors
Not quite. The next MWC will open on February 25 2013 at Gran Via, three stops and 15 minutes along metro line 8 from Plaça Espanya to Europa Fira station, or three kilometres south west from the main gates of the old site along the highway — Gran Via — that, another 10 kilometres or so further on does, yes, reach the airport.
Taxi drivers are going to love the new venue. Gran Via has a few nearby hotels but is far beyond walking distance from the dense mixture of services — shops, hotels large and small, restaurants, cafés and bars — of central Barcelona.
And line 8 isn’t really a metro line: it’s a metre-gauge suburban railway that starts at Plaça Espanya with no other interconnections with the rest of the system. Everyone is going to have to change at Plaça Espanya for the last haul to the new site.
A completely new €16 billion, 50-kilometre automatic metro line, line 9/10, is under construction to connect the airport with Europa Fira and the rest of Barcelona, with interchanges to other lines. The first section — at the wrong end for MWC delegates — was opened at the end of 2009. The rest should be open in 2014. Last December the government allocated a further €54 million, said at the time to ensure the completion of the section including Europa Fira and the airport.
This year, hours before MWC opened — as early visitors registered at Montjuïc and booth staff put the finishing touches to their displays — line 8 to Gran Via was almost deserted, the roads round the site were empty and quiet, and children played on the stainless steel entrance sign. It will be very different in 2013. GTB
Further reading from Global Telecoms Business:
MWC starts as metro strike averted 27 Feb 2012
New director general Anne Bouverot sets GSMA's priorities for ... 15 Feb 2012
Cologne and Amsterdam out of MWC race 25 Jan 2011
Where will Mobile World Congress go next? 26 Aug 2010