New research shows that combined forecasts for users of contactless mobile payments, mobile banking and over the air (OTA) transactions will reach 884 million in 2012.
This is the cumulative number of users expected to adopt new technologies, platforms and services, according to a new report by market research outfit IMS Research which found that these users are expected to complete a total 62 billion transactions between them in 2012.
"The early seeds sown by a handful of companies have started to grow and now serious backing is being provided by both the financial and operator communities", says John Devlin, research director, IMS Research. "Service growth to date is already strong and taking off across a number of markets in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. When coupled with the growing volume of rollouts and service launches in Europe and the Americas, the number of new users nearly tripled in 2007."
The report shows that mobile penetration in many developing markets is far higher than that of banking or fixed line infrastructure, meaning that mobile is often the only means of access available. This contrasts strongly with more developed markets where mobile is an alternative but personalised means of access.
In separate news, a new study conducted by Javelin Strategy and Research has found that US financial institutions are discouraging take-up of mobile banking by requiring customers to sign up online rather than via their handsets and by focusing on WAP-based options rather than text-based services.
Javelin predicts mobile banking uptake will soar in the US over the next few years, rising from around 10 million US users in 2007 to 108 million in 2012, but warns that financial institutions need to change their approach.
The report found that banks are putting off many customers by insisting users sign up for m-banking over the Internet. The research found 11% of non-online bankers are likely to conduct mobile banking, only slightly less than the 13% for those who do use the Internet.
"Consumers wishing to enroll in mobile banking should be allowed to sign up for the service using the very device they will use to bank: their mobile phones," says the report.
The research found that 23 of the top 135 US financial institutions ranked by assets are now offering mobile banking services. Of these, 70% provide WAP or browser-based services, 26% are SMS-based and 22% offer downloadable or embedded applications.
Yet a survey of 2300 consumers found that 89% of existing mobile bankers already use text messaging, compared to just 56% who browse Web pages and 49% who use a mobile programme.
Whilst WAP-based offerings are most similar to online banking, SMS banking will draw in more customers with simple options such as balance alerts and fund transfers, argues Javelin.
In the longer term these customers will turn to browser-based platforms because of their ability to offer more complex options than SMS is capable of. WAP-based platforms also offer freedom from wireless carrier-agreements, unlike downloadable applications which will see slower adoption.
However the research also found that concern over security continues to be a major hindrance to mobile banking take-up, with lost or stolen phones the top concern cited by 69% of 2200 consumers questioned, while 62% cited hackers, spyware and viruses as the biggest worry.
Javelin says banks need to research and implement encryption, multi-factor authentication, automatic time out and remote deactivation in order to convince customers that mobile banking is safe.