The number of people using their mobile phones to make payments is set to grow from 70.2 million in 2009 to 108.6 million this year, a 54.5% rise, according to research house Gartner.
This represents 2.1% of all mobile users, with the fastest take-up of the technology witnessed in developing markets such as Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, driven by the unbanked and underbanked.
In Asia Pacific, m-payment users will surpass 62.8 million in 2010 and represent 2.6% of all mobile owners. In Europe, the Middle East and Africa there will be 27.1 million while in North America the figure is expected to be just 3.5 million, or 1.1% of all mobile users in the region.
SMS remains the dominant mobile payment technology, says Gartner, because of its ubiquity and ease of use although Web and app-based systems gaining some ground in developing markets. However NFC technology has failed to take off, with many banks seeing no business case.
Sandy Shen, research director, Gartner, says: "Developing markets have found the right formula for mobile money services - functions that users want and an ecosystem that can sustain the service. The answer for developed markets, however, remains elusive. The offerings for developed markets will take a different format. Instead of a point offering for mobile payment, the service needs to be built on top of the existing payment behaviour and infrastructure so that users can choose any channel - retail, phone, online or mobile - that suits their context at the moment of payment."
Meanwhile, a separate report from Juniper Research suggests that the number of mobile subscribers who use their phones for mobile banking will exceed 400 million globally by 2013.