Asia-Pacific Mobile Payments to Double in 5 Years

Mobile payments (m-payments) in Asia-Pacific are expected to record transactions worth more than two-fold from 2009 revenues of US$1.6 billion, in five years. In 2015, Frost & Sullivan estimates that m-payments could exceed billings of US$3.6 billion, at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 14.8% (2010-2015). 

Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Shaker Amin attributes this growth to technology innovations and operators’ initiatives - particularly with NFC (Near Field Communication) - as well as rising consumer demand in both the developed and emerging markets. 

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan's 2010 Asia-Pacific Mobile Payments Outlook finds that contactless payments via the NFC channel will increase in popularity to account for 23% of all m-payments in 2015, from only 12% last year. 

The SMS method which accounted for nearly 82% of total transactions in 2009 will likely remain the dominant mobile payment channel till 2015, albeit dropping to about 67% by then. 

Other payment channels such as WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and DMB (Direct Mobile Billing) contributed small fractions to m-payments in 2009, with adoption levels not expected to rise through to 2015. 

“Having one of the most advanced mobile cultures in the world, Japan and South Korea lead the region in the adoption of mobile payments,” Amin says. 

He adds that the relatively less developed mobile markets such as China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines, where access to traditional banking services is highly skewed against the rural mass population, are showing rapid take-up of mobile banking services including person-to-person (P2P) transfers and remittances. 

“Even in emerging markets such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - although limited to mostly SMS-based bill payments and micro credit transfers - m-payments services are increasingly becoming popular,” he continues. 

Amin explains that these [emerging] markets also have good potential for mobile remittance services due to the large population of workers residing in other countries - Malaysia for example. “International remittance sent out from the significant migrant worker population in Malaysia is a lucrative business. This is significant for Malaysian operators as this segment of the population also has high mobile penetration; more than 90% of all migrant groups have mobile devices,” he says. He adds that operators’ initiatives in enabling remittance services - along with m-wallet and top-up/transfer services - have helped the mobile payments market in Malaysia, which, until recently, remained tepid and limited to bill payments. 

Dominant payment service providers have already begun providing contactless payment services via mobile phones, while banks are also showing keen interest to jump on the NFC bandwagon, with trials underway. 

“Ultimately, strong government support is going to be instrumental in driving uptake and making NFC and a cashless society a reality,” Amin says. He cites Singapore’s IDA (Infocomm Development Authority) as one such advocate; in February 2009, Singapore became the first country to give the go-ahead for the creation of a central Trusted Third Party (TTP) designed to deliver a fully interoperable, multi-application national NFC ecosystem. 

Later, in April 2009, IDA announced the availability of funding to help grow the installed base of contactless terminals in food courts, coffee shops, fast food outlets, convenience stores, vending machines, and so on. In the early stages of NFC adoption, IDA expects the annual revenue from NFC mobile payments and advertising to amount to US$43 million for Singapore.

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