John Hoffman, CEO of GSMA Ltd (pictured, right), claimed the organisation will be an industry trailblazer as it prepares to host more than 35,000 attendees at MWC21 in Barcelona next month, while revealing plans to donate €300,000 to the city’s local Covid-19 (coronavirus) recovery effort.

Hosting a press conference alongside GSMA director general Mats Granryd (pictured, left), Hoffman predicted MWC21 would be the largest face-to-face event taking place in more than year, with 35,000 to 50,000 expected to walk through the doors.

More than 300 exhibitors will participate physically, with 300 to 400 more in the sister start-up event 4YFN.

As a hybrid event, “thousands” more will also be watching and participating online, making it “historic to be back, historic how many people will participate, back together to do business”, Hoffman said.

The GSMA executives also hailed the efforts of local partners to bring the event back following cancellation in 2020 due to the pandemic, unveiling a Give to Get Back initiative targeting local industry sector verticals.

As part of the plan, the GSMA is offering 30,000 people working in 11 local industry verticals including banking, transportation, education and manufacturing the chance to attend the event for €21.

The proceeds of this, up to €300,000, will then be donated to local Covid-19 recovery funds. Hoffman said this was part of the GSMA’s desire to “fight Covid-19″ with Barcelona, and ensure a vibrant local presence at the event.

Granryd said “safety is ground zero” for MWC21 and the company was confident in its testing plan to ensure a safe event.

He said GSMA opted not to rely on vaccines due to differences in global programmes. Instead, a safe and secure environment would be delivered through mandatory wearing of face masks, layers of ventilation, attendee testing, social distancing and an entirely touchless show.

Granryd said there would be 600 speakers across the week, with 300 of director level or above. The majority (70 per cent) will attend in-person.

The pair said they were “fine” with recent decisions by high-profile companies including Ericsson and Nokia not to attend, stating businesses had made decisions they needed to take.

“We cannot say anything. There are plenty of cool, forward leaning companies that are attending,” said Granyrd.

GSMA’s MWC21 press conference comes a day after IFA 2021 in Berlin, scheduled for September, was cancelled due to “new global health uncertainties”.