01/03/2013 03:43 GMT | Updated 30/04/2013 06:12 BST

MWC 2013 Exec Insists 'We're Still Relevant'

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.

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"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.