Global m-payments take-up rising fast, but NFC breakthrough unlikely in short term

Global m-payments take-up rising fast, but NFC breakthrough unlikely in short term

Over 141 million people around the world will use their mobile phones to make payments this year, up 38% on 2010, yet the market is actually growing slower than expected, according to a report from Gartner.

The research firm says that even though m-payment volume is forecast to soar 76% year-on-year to $86.1 billion, significant barriers are holding back adoption in both the developing and developed worlds.

Sandy Shen, research director, Gartner warns that while developing markets have favourable conditions for mobile payments - lots of handsets and few banked people - this is no guarantee of success, and providers must adapt their strategies to local markets.

"In developing markets, despite favourable conditions for mobile payment, growth is not as strong as was anticipated. Many service providers are yet to adapt their strategies to local requirements, and success models from Kenya and the Philippines are unlikely to be translated to other markets," says Shen.

Meanwhile, Shen predicts that the much-hyped contactless payments market is unlikely to come to fruition for some time, saying "We believe mass market adoption of NFC payments is at least four years away. The biggest hurdle is the need to change user behaviour by convincing consumers to pay with mobile phones instead of cash and cards."

Gartner expects SMS and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) to remain the dominant access technologies in developing markets where smartphones are not prevalent. Money transfers and prepaid top-ups will drive transaction volumes in developing markets. This is most obvious in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, where these two services will account for 54% and 32% of all transactions in 2011.

Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) will remain the preferred option in developed markets with mobile app downloads and m-commerce driving WAP payments. In fact, WAP will account for almost 90% of all mobile transactions in North America and about 70% in Western Europe in 2011.

The figures contrast sharply with a claim made last month by Juniper Research which predicted that the total value of mobile payments this year would be nearly three times Gartner's bet at $240 billion, rising to $670 billion by 2015.

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