It’s an often repeated claim that the mobile industry and the wider digital ecosystem have undergone profound changes over the past decade, so we thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at how these changes have impacted the content we develop and the overall makeup of the audiences our flagship event attracts.
Our yearly Mobile World Congress post event report provides great data points on each year’s gathering, including a breakdown of demographic information on attendees. The key metrics we report on every year are attendees’ country of origin, their seniority within their company/organisation and their company/organisation’s main area of activity. For the purposes of this brief analysis we’re going to focus exclusively on the conference delegates (our core audience).
With visitors from over 200 countries attending MWC, the country of origin statistic demonstrates the truly global nature of our audience, but with little change in terms of the country leaders attending the show, it doesn’t provide the greatest insights for our purposes. In terms of conference content, we‘ve always tried to bring case studies from around the world to our stage, even experimenting with regional focus sessions over the years. In addition we’ve been making a concerted effort over the past several years to increase diversity in our speaker line-up to ensure we are far more representative of the diversity not only seen at the event but also within the wider ecosystem that we represent.
Similarly, while we’re proud of the fact that seniority levels have remained very high over the past decade (our delegate audience tends to be about 15% to 20% more senior than the general attendee group), the relative stability of those ratios limit the insights we can glean from those numbers. That being said, these metrics are key considerations we take into account when developing our content and selecting speakers. For example, one of the reasons we tend to seek the most senior speakers capable of addressing a given topic is to ensure we have more of a peer to peer discussion between stage and audience.
Delegates’ company’s main area of activity and some of the changes over time in the categories included in that metric provide the best insights into how the conference programme has evolved over the years and attracted new audiences from different industry verticals. Categories added to the list hint at the expansion of mobile’s influence over the past decade and include Application/Software Developers (2010), Advertising & Marketing (2011), Consultancies (2014) and IoT/M2M (2015). On the flip side categories dropped from the list hint at the loss of core telco topics addressed within the conference programme and these include Value Added Reseller (2011), Service Provider (2015), OSS Billing and Test/Management Vendor (2017).
The most striking difference when looking at conference delegates and their company’s main area of activity is the quite dramatic fall in the percentage of delegates from the Mobile, Fixed and Virtual Network Operators category. Representing over a third of our audience in 2008, the ratio has dropped 14% to just over a fifth. In terms of actual numbers however, the drop is only about one percentage point but this is in stark contrast to the growth in the overall conference attendance over the same period of time. So who’s been driving the growth and how has this affected our programme?
The category that has seen the highest growth over the last 10 years has been the regulatory sector, jumping from 4% of our audience in 2008 to 15% in 2017. The growing importance of mobile as a key economic driver and platform for technological innovation has required far more dialogue between ministers, regulators and industry stake holders. The Ministerial Programme at MWC provides a unique forum to discuss how to harness these opportunities to achieve lofty ambitions such as delivering the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. We’ve also held high profile keynotes in the conference programme to host the likes of the EU’s Vice President for the Digital Single Union Andrus Ansip and the FCC Chair Ajit Pai addressing key constituent concerns such as market consolidation, net neutrality and investment in next generation technologies.
The next highest growth is coming from two traditionally related groups, the Finance/Banking/VC category and App/Software developers. We held our first app developer conference all the way back in 2009 with the specific aim of bringing the full value chain to the event and while that programme was eventually spun out of the conference, our commitment to covering innovation in the mobile space has continued to attract that audience in growing numbers. Indeed, over the past ten years the most popular sessions in the conference have tended to revolve around innovation topics so there’s clearly a huge attraction for both groups though obviously for different reasons. It’s also worth noting that the importance of mobile financial services and the coverage we’ve given it in the programme has also ensured a steady representation from the financial sector.
A few categories display interesting parallels with the fortunes of the verticals they represent. The best example of this is the Advertising & Marketing category which didn’t even exist until 2011. As mobile has increasingly competed with other platforms for consumers’ screen time, and as advertising and marketing spend has shifted to mobile, we’ve observed a steady rise in representatives from that segment rising from 2% in 2011 to 6% in 2017 (peaking at 7% in 2016). Fortunately conference delegates didn’t have to wait until 2011 to learn about the superiority of mobile as an engagement platform since we’ve been covering that space since 2008!
The massive consolidation of the vendor market and the ITisation of the telco have seen a slight drop in representation from the Network Infrastructure group but also the disappearance of OSS/Billing and Test/Measurement vendors and Integrated Solution vendors from our categories. These have been quite serious changes to the mobile ecosystem and has seen the introduction of whole new categories of content within the conference while others have disappeared. For example we once had a whole stream dedicated to OSS/BSS which we decided to drop to allow for a whole new set of technologies to be discussed such as virtualisation, cloud computing, analytics and AI.
Finally, a couple of categories have managed to stay relatively stable over the years. The best and most pertinent example is the systems integrator category which makes sense, given that all the new stuff discussed onstage eventually has to work with all the old stuff that was there before it… so we assume this group will continue to come to MWC to learn about the challenges they will be facing in the years to come!