When our CEO mentioned that he had spare tickets to MWC, I lurched to accept his offer. But there was still the problem of getting to and staying in Barcelona. I was already bracing myself for an expensive trip to the north of Sweden in a month. Despite it being a great chance, I gave up the idea.

But this message did not get across and I was surprised to find an invite link a few days later. So I found myself pulling my savings and booking a last minute flight to Spain through Nuremburg which was the only affordable option. I also wanted to buy a new lens before the trip but I mistook the departure time and had to run for the bus instead. It then hit me that Nuremburg should have a Nikon store and indeed it did. So I rushed to the store, bought the lens, threw away the packaging to fit it in my backpack and then rushed to the airport in record time.

Walking into MWC on day 1, I wanted to get a lay of the land to plan my day. There were multiple halls, each of them the size of entire exhibitions back home. The passageway I was on didn’t seem to end and I kept walking and marvelling at it all. Hundreds of stalls. Dozens of big name tech brands. It was incredible.

Eventually I started exploring from the end of the exhibition. I went stall by stall and stopping to chat and try something out if it looked interesting. Soon I reached the massive Huawei area where I was told that I needed a different ticket to pass through to the center where the big brands were. I was shocked. My ticket was already an eye watering price and they wanted even more?

Disheartened, I went back to the entrance. My cunningness figured that there must be a way to ‘sneak’ in and so I returned. As it turns out, it was only this Huawei booths that needed special access to enter. The rest of the booths in the center hall were open and it was the place to be. After seeing the Samsung booth, I acknowledged that they owned this conference. They had one of the largest spaces with tens of S9 flagships and multiple VR games that were a big hit. I wanted to have a go at VR too but on both days they were a massive queue filled mostly with representatives from other brands.

Everything shown off at MWC was the best of the best in tech that each of these companies had and for a techie like me, it was heaven. I was quite surprised by how good some of Huawei’s and Xiaomi’s products were. The age old impression of “chinese products” is definitely not valid anymore. On the other hand, I found Nokia’s booth in a small corner. While their android lineup was not cutting edge it was still pretty good Maybe they would be the ones dominating this conference if they took this path a few years ago instead of building their own OS and partnering with Microsoft. It just goes to show that all it takes is a few bad moves for the top dogs to fall from grace.

There was a dark side to the exhibition. All the attendees were here for business, to meet new partners and to close deals. Many had come prepared with a agenda of booths to attend and people they would meet. So when I spoke to people, it felt like they were trying to assess whether I was worth talking to. Given the short duration of the conference, I don’t blame them. But as a plain developer the conversations I had were usually short. Occasionally I got more attention when people mistook me for a reporter due to the DSLR slung around my shoulder.

It also occured to me that there is probably no Sri Lankan company here. Most of the big brands were American or European and the truth is that we simply don’t have a brand that is big enough to be here. Feeling a bit homesick, I decided to at least find a company from my adopted home and visited the Avast booth where they gifted me a powerbank for participating in their challenge.

Due to my budget constraints, I only stayed for 2 out of 3 days of MWC. It is a memorable experience but one which I would probably not pay my own money for in the future. Online announcements are enough for me. Perhaps I might return but not as a lonely attendee. I would be a part of something bigger.

Prabashwara Seneviratne

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Prabashwara Seneviratne