Mobile payments to grow 70 per cent

Mobile payments will jump by 70 per cent this year, taking the number to 73.4 million users, according to Gartner - and as high as 190 million by 2012.

The ability to pay for banking and services via SMS, WAP, or unstructured supplementary service data (USSD), represents "an extension of the existing payment infrastructure allowing people to deal with their financial needs on the go and in a timely fashion," said Sandy Shen, research director at Gartner.

Analysts feel mobile payments will become mainstream within three years once awareness within the global consumer market has risen and individual markets, such as developing economies, have acclimatised to the idea.

Gartner predicted Asia-Pacific and Japan would take the lion's share of the market by 2012, while Europe is expected to increase from 0.9 per cent to 2009 to 2.5 per cent in 2012.

However, security concerns and banking regulations, as well as economic disparities on a global scale are still great challenges to the growth of mobile payment.

"Mobile payment has very different user cases and impact on developing markets to that of developed markets," added Shen.

While bank accounts, debit cards, and credit cards are common place in the UK and US - It is not the case in most developing countries. Large numbers of the population do not have bank accounts, meaning services must be adapted for individual markets, but would promote tangible benefits.

"The most profound impact of mobile banking and payment services is that they provide the non-banking population with access to modern financial services, giving them tools to improve their living standards," Shen said.

She added: "In developing markets, together with mobile banking, it allows people to use financial services in a more-efficient way and sometimes the only way at more-affordable costs, and can greatly improve standards of living."

Business wise, increased mobile payment users will help mobile operators attract and retain users, as well as generate new revenue streams, she said.

Gartner could very well be correct in its estimations, with many commentators arguing that actual cash payment is fast becoming something of the past.

Adding further weight to the Gartner claims was research conducted by Tomi Dahlberg for the Helsinki School of Economics, whose findings stated that "more than 75 per cent of retail payments are conducted electronically via electronic point of sale (POS) terminals, ATMs, electronic banking, onternet banking, mobile banking or mobile payment solutions."