M-payment users to surpass 141.1m people this year – Gartner

22 Jul 2011

Worldwide mobile payment users will surpass 141.1m in 2011, a 38.2pc increase from 2010, when mobile payment users reached 102.1m, according to Gartner.

Worldwide mobile payment volume is forecast to total US$86.1bn, up 75.9pc from 2010 volume of US$48.9bn.

But despite these strong growth projections, Gartner analysts said the mobile payment market is growing slower than expected.

“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,” said Sandy Shen, research director at Gartner.

“While developing markets have favourable conditions for mobile payments, such as high penetration of mobile devices and low banking penetration, this is no guarantee of success, unless service providers adapt their strategies to local market requirements.

“In developed markets, companies are trumpeting the prospects of near field communication (NFC) without realising the complexity of the service model. We believe mass market adoption of NFC payments is at least four years away,” Shen said.

“The biggest hurdle is the need to change user behaviour by convincing consumers to pay with mobile phones instead of cash and cards,” Shen said.

Dominant payment technologies

Gartner expects short message service (SMS) and unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) to remain the dominant access technologies in developing markets due to the constraints of mobile phones. Wireless application protocol (WAP) will remain the preferred mobile access technology in developed markets, where the mobile internet is commonly available and activated on the phone. Mobile app downloads and mobile commerce are the main drivers of WAP payments, and WAP will account for almost 90pc of all mobile transactions in North America and about 70pc in Western Europe in 2011.

Money transfers and prepaid top-ups will drive transaction volumes in developing markets. These are seen as the ‘killer apps’ in developing markets, where people value the convenience of sending money to relatives and topping up mobile accounts. This is most obvious in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, where these two services will account for 54pc and 32pc of all transactions in 2011.

“Thanks to the success of mobile application stores, such as Apple’s App Store, and the efforts in driving mobile sales by major retailers, such as Amazon and eBay, merchandise purchases far outweigh other use cases in developed markets, which include North America and Western Europe,” Shen said.

“We predict that in 2011, merchandise purchases will account for 90pc and 77pc of all transactions in North America and Western Europe, respectively,” Shen said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years