Mobile World Congress 2009: It starts

The excitement gathers pace as the biggest event in the mobile industry’s calendar, Mobile World Congress, kicks off.

Today marks the first day of Mobile World Congress (MWC), the biggest event in the mobile industry's calendar.

Every year during the month of February, the movers and shakers from the world of mobile gather together to share ideas, chew the fat, showcase new devices and generally celebrate the industry's achievements.

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"We are living in an era of unprecedented and rapid change. Set against a backdrop of the financial crisis, wildly-fluctuating stock markets and a broad economic slowdown, the 2009 edition is set to be the most compelling Mobile World Congress yet," said Rob Conway, the GSMA's chief executive and member of the board said in a statement ahead of the conference.

"By bringing together the leaders of companies across the broad communications sector, we'll be able to gain further insight into the significant challenges presently facing our industry, but more importantly, we'll focus on how we can leverage mobility to create new opportunities, and drive productivity and prosperity going forward."

But is there more to this conference than meets the eye? Below you'll find 10 things you may not know about Mobile World Congress.

1) The event took place in Cannes until 2006 when it then moved to its current home of the Fira de Barcelona.

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2) The conference has been going strong since 1987.

3) Mobile World Congress used to go under a different name. Until 2008, it was known by the moniker of 3GSM. Last year, it came back bigger and better but with a new title.

4) The theme of this year's Mobile World Congress is "Think Forward."

5) Around 1,300 companies will be strutting their stuff and showing off their mobile wares at the event.

6) Last year's Mobile World Congress was a big draw for many. Official figures state that more than 55,000 visitors attended the event. The 2008 show also played home to more than 230 high-level speakers and 8,000 delegates, all hungry to satisfy their collective mobile appetites.

7) Will.i.am, he of Black Eyed Peas fame, will be one of the headline speakers gracing the show with his presence on Thursday this week. He'll be speaking as part of the Mobile Backstage entertainment show.

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"Mobile is the medium for the masses. With nearly four billion mobile connections across the globe, the potential for mobile to change not only how the world consumes entertainment but also interacts with it is enormous," said the man himself in a statement promoting his involvement. "Mobile Backstage provides a unique forum for discussing both the business of delivering and the art of creating content."

8) Later in the week, Kevin Spacey will also be making an appearance as he hosts the Mofilm short film festival.

9) As you'd expect a number of innovations will be showcased during the next few days. These include an HSPA+ demonstration, connecting a notebook with a device at peak rates of up to 21 Mbps, in addition to more than 50 HSPA devices including net books, smartphones, USB modems, datacards and wireless routers all of which will be demonstrated in the Mobile Broadband Showcase in Hall 2 (2C37).

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10) This year's Mobile World Congress comes just a few days after the GSMA announced that we had surpassed the fourth billion mobile connection worldwide. It's predicted that we're on track to reach six billion such connections by 2013.

"As we enter 2009, the world is in the midst of a broad economic slowdown, one that is impacting every facet of business, every link in the communications value chain. To address the significant challenges facing the global economy, the GSMA and its membership are focused on leveraging mobility to create new opportunities and to drive productivity and prosperity," said Michael O'Hara, the GSMA's chief marketing officer, in a statement.

"GSMA industry initiatives in the areas of Mobile Broadband, Mobile Lifestyle and Mobile Planet will help drive this innovation and growth despite the challenges of the global economic downturn."

Click here for the latest news and view from Mobile World Congress.

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