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Last year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was canceled a few weeks before it was set to begin. It was one of the first signs in the tech world that COVID-19 was likely going to disrupt more than China. A year later — and nearly 110 million global cases of the virus later — MWC plans to buck the virtual conference trend and is set to return to Barcelona.
The GSMA, the trade association that organizes MWC events, confirmed Wednesday that its event in Shanghai is slated to start on Feb. 23. Given the stringent requirements for entering China and the contact-tracing efforts across the country, it's unlikely there will be too many attendees from outside of China. But the GSMA also shared some of its plans for its larger Barcelona event, which will be taking place in June this year.
"COVID requirements will decrease our capacity," GSMA CEO John Hoffman told Mobile World Live. "We're not going to have 110,000 people, with travel restrictions, testing capacity and one-way traffic through the exhibition, there's no way."
For anyone wishing to attend this year's event, they'll have to provide a negative COVID result within 72 hours before the event. The organizers will apparently also leverage tech to create a "touchless environment" at the conference. It's unclear how many people the GSMA expects to attend, but Hoffman said that a vaccination will not be a requirement for a ticket.
Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.