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GSMA recruits a bit of Fry and Duran Duran

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Stephen Fry and Duran Duran will be headlining February's mobile industry bash, as the GSMA tries to drag some sex appeal into the increasingly-dull Barcelona proceedings.

Rather than listening to company executives or industry experts, attendees making the annual pilgrimage to Barcelona will instead get a Duran Duran gig and presentation from Stephen Fry. And given the state of the industry, its possible that 80's rock stars and a celebrated comedian would have more idea what's going on than anyone inside it.

The annual show used to be run by Informa, and called 3GSM, but in the last few years ownership shifted to the GSMA and it became Mobile World Congress as the trade body tried to draw attention away from the dull old world of voice minutes and handsets and into the sexy world of television, films and games. It's always embarrassing when this happens - like a dad who really believes he can still carry the dance floor, telecom companies love to think they're involved in the music biz. But fundamentally they are uncool, and always will be.

US trade shows often have a headlining act: one of the more high-brow chat show hosts or a particularly charismatic CEO, but rarely 1980's pop groups, and one can't help wondering who the GSMA thinks this is going to attract?

It's hard to imagine executives from major operators suddenly deciding they will make the trip on the strength of an opportunity to hear "Rio" live.

The last time we heard a gig at the show as O2's ill-fated launch of The White Room (tagline - "like the Arctic Monkeys, only mobile!") which was embarrassing for all concerned. At least Duran Duran will have pocketed a decent fee from the gig, but we can't help wondering if all this doesn't smack a little of desperation.

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