This is a city famous for its Picasso museum and a handful of buildings designed by master architect Antonio Gaudi. These days, it is becoming famous for another reason, the annual 3GSM conference that has been held here since 2005. Starting today, and for the next four days, the centre of gravity of the wireless world will move to the Spanish capital.
The CEOs of telcos will be there (this year there will be 350 of them), as will be their counterparts from equipment makers. Ministers and other policy-makers from several countries will try and understand how best to regulate (or not to) the business of mobile telephony. Venture capitalists and deal-makers will scour the exhibits looking for opportunities. Representatives from the entertainment industry will be there too, trying to figure out how to get on top of a new medium, and make some money from it.
On show at this year’s conference will be something die-hard movie buffs in India will give an arm and a leg, or, at the least, a few rupees for: Bollywood movie clips. India’s Hindi movie industry will show-case five mobile-friendly clips.
In true celebrity-endorsement tradition, actors Lara Dutta and John Abraham will be there to make a song and dance about Bollywood going mobile.
The United States’ indie film industry will do one better. Actor and director Robert Redford, the founder of the Sundance Institute which hosts the Sundance Festival dedicated to independent movies, will showcase five made-for-mobile movies made in collaboration with the institute.
The local Spanish celebrating the event believe launches such as these two fit in well with a theme they have coined for the event: El Mundo En Un Telefono—the world in a telephone.
They are also celebrating the influx of delegates which has filled most hotels in the city. “This will be the greatest concentration of industry leaders in Barcelona since the Olympic Games in 1992,” says Jordi Portabella, the second deputy mayor of the city. An official at the city’s tourist office admits that the congress is “very big”.
Those attending the congress have been offered a software application that, once downloaded on to mobile handsets, provides basic phrases in Catalan, the local language, and directions on how to get around the city. It may take a while for the world to reside in a telephone, but part of this city already does.