The GSMA’s flagship Asia event returns to Shanghai next week under the theme Future First, bringing in nearly 50 new exhibitors, including AI company iFlyTech and device maker Xiaomi, and featuring co-founder and chair of Sun Media Group Yang Lan on the keynote stage.

MWC Shanghai 2024 runs 26-28 June at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre (SNIEC) and Kerry Hotel Pudong, drawing in more than 150 speakers and about 250 exhibitors, sponsors and partners from across the mobile ecosystem. Sub-themes cover 5G and Beyond, AI Economy and Manufacturing DX.

Keynote 1 features the chairmen from China’s three major mobile operators, which continue to record solid growth following continued network investments. The operators’ capex, about double the capital intensity of many other markets, remains elevated almost five years after first launching 5G services.

A woman with shoulder-length dark hair and a slight smile is facing the camera. She is wearing a black shirt and stands against a plain, light-colored background, reminiscent of professional headshots often seen at MWC Las Vegas events.

GSMA CMO Lara Dewar (pictured, left) told Mobile World Live that by the end of 2024 half of China’s mobile connections will be on 5G networks. She highlighted the pace of innovation in China, noting she always looks forward to the event to see the vast range of services being implemented across industries supported by 5G infrastructure.

She also highlighted being impressed by “some cool things” coming to the smartphone realm, such as foldable screens, AI powering digital assistants as well as enhanced designs local vendors are delivering to consumers.

During Keynote 1, GSMA director general Mats Grannryd will lead a panel discussion with Globe Telecom and Axiata Group about Open Gateway in context of Asia Pacific.

Sun Media Group’s Yang, a former broadcast journalist and leading one of China’s top private media groups, joins Huawei executive director of the board David Wang, ZTE CEO Xu Ziyang and Honor CEO George Zhao in Keynote 2 on the topic of AI First.

Adjacent sectors
While the event is held in Shanghai, Dewar noted the GSMA is committed to diversity, both geographically and across industries. She said GSMA is reaching out to speakers from across the region and working to attract overseas attendees to ensure it has an international flavour.

MWC Shanghai has broadened its focus from pure mobility, with 30 per cent of attendees last year representing adjacent industries. “I think that’s a trend that we’re going to continue to see, and I think it’s good for the ecosystem,” clearly demonstrating the world’s growing reliance on connectivity.

Outside of China, keynote speakers include CEO of business development at Singtel Anna Yip, Globe Telecom president and CEO Ernest Cu, CEO of Axiata Group’s telecoms business Hans Wijayasuriya and Qualcomm CFO and COO Akash Palkhiwala.

Senior executives from Ant Group, Amazon Web Services, AutoFlight, self-driving car tech company AutoX, Capitallink and Beijing Unionpay Card Technology are also lined up to present.

The exhibition is spread across five halls at SNIEC. Amazon Web Services and Spacecom will be exhibiting for the first time.

New this year is Connected Industries, a major feature at MWC Barcelona. The dedicated area for connected businesses and organisations will take a region-specific focus, under the themes of Manufacturing and Smart Mobility.

Dewar noted the space was very successful in Barcelona. “I mentioned the importance of bringing the verticals into these spaces at the events, but it’s also important for us to bring it into our community from a membership perspective as the organiser of the event.”

MWC Shanghai also will host the finalists of the GSMA-China Telecom Open Gateway Hackathon, which takes place over the course of 48 hours starting on 25 June.

The CMO explained Open Gateway is a key priority, and as part of the initiative the GSMA aims to engage the developer community, which sometimes has been “difficult for us to make inroads in the last several years”. The idea behind that hackathon, and its partnership with China Telecom, is about getting developers to innovate in a condensed two-day session.

With attention always on attendee numbers, she insisted the raw attendance figure is not the GSMA’s top focus. “We pay a lot more attention to the quality,  looking for C-suite executives,” noting the show is about bringing the decision makers to the table. “We don’t think we’ll be back to pre-Covid levels, as we saw in Barcelona, but we’re happy with the trajectory.”

Industry leaders will have the opportunity to participate in the Digital Leaders Programme and join policymakers at regional roundtables dedicated to APAC, LATAM and MENA.