One of the organisers of Mobile World Congress (MWC) has hit back at critics who said the event was not as important as it once was, saying "it's the one place where the industry comes together to get things done".

As the sun sets on the Fira Gran Via conference centre in Barcelona, and the shattered 72,000 attendees stream out to parties, hotel rooms or back home, GSMA's Michael O'Hara said the event was as important as it ever was.

Critics before the show pointed out that the big names - Apple and Google - were not exhibiting at the conference, and others that were, such as Samsung, were launching products away from MWC, but for Mr O'Hara they were missing the point.

GSMA's chief marketing officer and part of the senior management team said: "We pride ourselves as a place where people come to do business so while you see stands, and you see conference programmes I think the thing that makes this an amazing thing is the meetings and the networking that's happening.

"It's really the one place where the industry comes together to get things done.

"I think it's fine that people do product launches outside the event.

"When I sat on the other side, it's hard to get above the noise of the event - there's so much going on.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Sony Xperia Tablet Z

    The Xperia Z was released in Japan a month ago, but went unnoticed here until its announcement by Sony at this year's show. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/02/25/sony-xperia-tablet-z_n_2757222.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-tech">It's a compelling 10-inch device</a>. Thin at just 6.9mm, well-built and with a beautiful screen, it will only be hindered by a lack of 10-inch Android apps (still) and the high-quality, but divisive, black-and-glass Sony aesthetic.

  • Ubuntu Touch

    Ubuntu Touch is a new Linux-based mobile OS which also supports HTML 5 apps, including ones built by Facebook and Twitter. <a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-13970_7-57571750-78/ubuntu-touch-beats-firefox-os-to-win-best-of-mwc-from-cnet/">CNET voted it the best product of MWC 2013 by a landslide.</a>

  • Firefox OS

    Firefox OS was announced last year and was on show for the first time in 2013, which devices and a range of manufacturers.<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/02/26/firefox-os-interview-johnathan-nightingale_n_2765214.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-tech"> We came away impressed by the vision but ready to see more on execution</a>. Still, its focus on the low-end and developing markets means it has a shot to change the world, even if you won't be using one in the UK for years.

  • Nokia's £13 Phone

    The Nokia 105 is a very, very low-cost phone with few features and a month's battery life. But while you're not playing Angry Birds on it, it's still impressive and potentially a huge advance for markets where access to charging points - and money - is not as simple as it is in Barcelona.

  • Asus PadFone Infinity

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/02/25/asus-mobile-world-congres_n_2758471.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-tech">In an eccentric press conference</a> Asus announced the Padfone Infinity, an ultra-HD premium version of its phone-tablet duo. Sliding the phone into the back of the 10-inch screen turns the 5-inch, all-metal handheld into a tablet for browsing and watching movies on its exceptionally clear and bright screen.

  • Asus Fonead

    The 7-inch Fonepad by Asus will cost just £179 when it's released in the UK. But will anyone be prepared to use it? <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/02/25/asus-jonathan-santaub-reg_n_2759192.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-tech">Asus told us that the "Dom Joly might catch on"</a>. But we're not convinced yet.

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

    Like the Asus Fonepad, the 8-inch tablet by Samsung is usable as a phone. But this is much more of a tablet than a primary mobile phone, with Samsung's high-quality S-Pen and note-taking screen. It's not hugely different to what we've seen before, but we enjoyed using it <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/02/25/samsung-galaxy-note-8-hands-on-preview_n_2757617.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-tech">and want to see more</a>.

  • Samsung Galaxy S4

    Samsung teased the tech world by announcing its S4 launch date right in the middle of the show. The invitations it sent us were spiffy, but the buzz caused by the news illustrated a wider problem - nothing else was that compelling.

  • To NFC Or Not To NFC?

    Near-field communications - using short-band radio waves to use your phone and bank card to pay for information, share data and communicate - was out in force at MWC again. But even a strong push by the GSMA to get people tapping with impunity by giving out Sony phones loaded with VISA credit seemed to fall a bit short, and it might be time for a new idea.

  • I'm Watch

    This 'I'm Watch' smartwatch was actually a bit ropey in our tests, with poor apps and an unresponsive screen. But the throng around the stand showed that people are ready for an iWatch, whenever Apple wants to get around to letting us pay money for one.


"So people doing launches a week before, two weeks before or launching after, I don't think that's a big, big issue for us.

"The core is that everyone is here, (representatives from) Apple and Google are here, everyone across our industry is here and they are doing business and they are working out how we move the mobile industry forward."

There is no doubting the importance to the host city of Barcelona, especially in difficult economic times for Spain - the event created around 6,500 temporary jobs and poured 320 million euro (£276.7 million) into the local economy, according to GSMA's figures.

"It's a really, really good thing for the city as well," Mr O'Hara said.

"There are some challenging times here so I think bringing the mobile community here and creating a centre for mobile is great."

Mr O'Hara hailed the advent of new smartphone operating systems at this year's event, a development that has the potential to bring the internet to millions of people in the developing world.

"You always get phones, new phones, new tablets which is exciting, but probably the most exciting for me has been seeing new operating systems coming into the market," he said.

"At the moment you have Apple and Google who are pretty much dominating the operating system space.

"So seeing companies like Firefox, Tizen, Ubuntu, bringing some competition into that space and Microsoft and Blackberry coming back adds some real spice into our industry."

Asked if he felt one of the themes at the event this year was the mobile industry's potential to change lives around the world, he said: "I think it absolutely is.
"There are about seven billion mobile connections in the world but there's only about 3.2 billion individuals that have mobile phones.
"The growth is going to come in moving mobile into developing markets and then actually connecting those people to the internet.
"It's the only way people in developing markets are going to get access to the internet and the services it brings."
MWC also set some records this year, with 72,000 attendees from 200 countries milling among the 1,700 companies showcasing their products across 94,000 square metres of exhibition and hospitality space - all new highs for the event, according to GSMA.

Loading Slideshow...
  • SPAIN-TELECOM-MOBILE-WORLD-CONGRESS

    A man holds Huawei's new smartphone 'Ascend P2' after a press conference in Barcelona on February 24, 2013, a day before the start of the 2013 Mobile World Congress. The 2013 Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile fair, is held from February 25 to February 28 in Barcelona. AFP PHOTO / JOSEP LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • SPAIN-TELECOM-MOBILE-WORLD-CONGRESS

    Huawei's Consumer Business Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Richard Yu presents his company's new smartphone 'Ascend P2' during a press conference in Barcelona on February 24, 2013, a day before the start of the 2013 Mobile World Congress. The 2013 Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile fair, is held from February 25 to February 28 in Barcelona. AFP PHOTO / JOSEP LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • SPAIN-TELECOM-MOBILE-WORLD-CONGRESS

    A woman takes pictures in front of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on February 24, 2013, a day before the start of the 2013 Mobile World Congress. The 2013 Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile fair, is held from February 25 to February 28 in Barcelona. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • SPAIN-TELECOM-MOBILE-WORLD-CONGRESS

    People take pictures of Huawei's new smartphone 'Ascend P2' after a press conference in Barcelona on February 24, 2013, a day before the start of the 2013 Mobile World Congress. The 2013 Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile fair, is held from February 25 to February 28 in Barcelona. AFP PHOTO / JOSEP LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Mobile World Congress 2013 - Previews

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 24: Drivers wait for their Mobile World Congress 2013 attendees at the Barcelona - El Prat Airport on February 24, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain. Airport Authorities are expecting an increase of more than 100,000 people passing though Barcelona's airports between February 22 and March 4, coinciding with the hosting of the Mobile World Congress 2013. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • Mobile World Congress 2013 - Previews

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 24: Drivers wait for their Mobile World Congress 2013 attendees at the Barcelona - El Prat Airport on February 24, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain. Airport Authorities are expecting an increase of more than 100,000 people passing though Barcelona's airports between February 22 and March 4, coinciding with the hosting of the Mobile World Congress 2013. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • Mobile World Congress 2013 - Previews

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 24: Workers finalize the last details ahead the opening day of the Mobile World Congress 2013 at the Fira Gran Via complex on February 24, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain. 70,000 visitors will visit the Mobile World Congress 2013 where 1,500 exhibitors will present the last wireless communication technologies. The congress runs from Frebuary 25 through February 28. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • SPAIN-TELECOM-MOBILE-WORLD-CONGRESS

    People walk outside the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on February 24, 2013, a day before the start of the 2013 Mobile World Congress. The 2013 Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile fair, is held from February 25 to February 28 in Barcelona. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Mobile World Congress 2013 - Previews

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 24: A visitor works on his computer the day before of the Mobile World Congress at the Fira Gran Via complex on February 24, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain. 70,000 visitors will visit the Mobile World Congress 2013 where 1,500 exhibitors will present the last wireless communication technologies. The congress runs from Frebuary 25 through February 28. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • Mobile World Congress 2013 - Previews

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 24: A visitor takes pictures at the main entrance of the Mobile World Congress 2013 at the Fira Gran Via complex on February 24, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain. 70,000 visitors will visit the Mobile World Congress 2013 where 1,500 exhibitors will present the last wireless communication technologies. The congress runs from Frebuary 25 through February 28.(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • Mobile World Congress 2013 - Previews

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 24: A visitor sits on a Barcelona sign at the main entrance of the Mobile World Congress 2013 at the Fira Gran Via complex on February 24, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain. 70,000 visitors will visit the Mobile World Congress 2013 where 1,500 exhibitors will present the last wireless communication technologies. The congress runs from Frebuary 25 thorough February 28. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • Mobile World Congress 2013 - Previews

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 24: Workers leaves the Fira Gran Via complex after finishing the last details ahead the opening day of the Mobile World Congress 2013 at the Fira Gran Via complex on February 24, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain. 70,000 visitors will visit the Mobile World Congress 2013 where 1,500 exhibitors will present the last wireless communication technologies. The congress runs from Frebuary 25 through February 28. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • SPAIN-TELECOM-MOBILE-WORLD-CONGRESS

    A group of cyclists ride past the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on February 24, 2013, a day before the start of the 2013 Mobile World Congress. The 2013 Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile fair, is held from February 25 to February 28 in Barcelona. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • SPAIN-TELECOM-MOBILE-WORLD-CONGRESS-FIREFOX

    People wait to attend the press conference of Mozilla's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in Barcelona on February 24, 2013, a day before the start of the 2013 Mobile World Congress. The 2013 Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile fair, is held from February 25 to February 28 in Barcelona. AFP PHOTO / JOSEP LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)