As another successful MWC comes to a close, I wanted to take a step back from the inevitable smartphone model announcements, and think about the overarching theme of discussions this year.
One topic which dominated MWC 2012 was, of course, mobile payments. Whether in terms of mobile banking, mobile as a point-of-sale, or even mobile contactless payments, this is clearly going to be the real growth market over the coming twelve months.
The agenda on Wednesday, for example, was heavily focused on NFC m-commerce developments, an area in which the Asian markets are undoubtedly leading the pack. As a result, much of the discussion has been centred on how the UK and Europe can replicate this
success, and the answer was clear: Collaboration.
In Japan NFC technology was first launched in 2004 and since then a common standard has emerged for contactless payments. Despite the availability of the technology and the clear consumer demand for these payments, this has simply failed to happen in the
UK and across Europe. One reason may be that in the UK partnerships on mobile payments have often been within industries, for example, telcos working with other telcos. This system has failed for a number of reasons, but primarily because such partnerships
are always doomed when one or both parties need to protect their respective customer bases.
Thankfully collaboration is increasingly inter-industry, as shown by the Orange and Barclaycard ‘Quick Tap’ launch, or Monday’s announcement that Vodafone and Visa are to partner up on NFC mobile payments. It appears that the message has been received;
not only is collaboration the way forward in the mobile payment journey, but the benefits of inter-industry partnerships far outweigh the risk, especially given that in this scenario neither party has to jealously guard their customer base.
So who will decide how the future of mobile payments plays out? In a seminar on Wednesday, Don Callahan, CTO and COO at Citigroup, quoted research which suggested that banks are still seen as the dominant players, with 82% of those questioned agreeing that
banks will have a big say in the direction of mobile payments. Nevertheless, more than 60% of those asked also saw telcos, specialist online providers, credit card companies, ticketing agencies and retailers as playing a leading role.
Wednesday’s seminar saw us revisiting the infamous Churchill quote “It’s not the end, not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps the end of the beginning”. There is still a long road ahead of us before mobile payments in the UK can reach the
same levels as in Asia. But this year’s MWC has certainly helped facilitate discussions between industries, reigniting the process of collaboration which is so long overdue, and where new agile entrants could well play a leading role.