LIVE FROM THE GSMA’S NFC & MOBILE MONEY SUMMIT, NEW YORK: Anne Bouverot, director-general of the GSMA, opened this year’s event with a declaration that NFC is finally starting to achieve scale and commercial success.
“Mobile NFC provides a critical link between our digital life on our smartphone and the connected world around us, as it becomes the primary tool to carry our wallet, identity, keys, music, books, photos, tickets, loyalty cards, mail, itinerary and much more,” said Bouverot.
The GSMA boss pointed to commercial deployments in countries such as Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Poland, Singapore, Turkey and across Western Europe. “We expect to see successful deployments in around 10 additional countries in the first quarter of 2014,” she noted. “Operators are enabling their mobile customers with exciting and innovative mobile NFC services, working alongside companies in the banking, retailing and transport sectors.”
Despite industry scepticism surrounding the potential of the much-hyped technology, Bouverot is adamant that demand for NFC is growing globally. “More than 70 million NFC SIM cards have been shipped to operators as of the middle of 2013, according to the SIM Alliance,” she stated. “Shipments in 2012 grew 87 per cent from the previous year. While Japan, Korea, and Western Europe have dominated SIM shipments to date, North America is gearing up.”
And Bouverot sees NFC being used for a wide range of applications beyond mobile payments. “For instance, an NFC-enabled rail ticket might make your handset vibrate when your train has arrived in the station,” she suggested. “In a retail store, your NFC handset could remind you about any relevant vouchers you have and offer to redeem them when you reach checkout. And mobile NFC is digitising ticketing, payments, vouchers, loyalty programmes, access control or even the simple act of exchanging business cards. This saves us time and money and enriches our lives.”
It isn’t just NFC that is driving market growth though, believes Bouverot. “Mobile money represents the biggest opportunity to enable financial inclusion in emerging markets,” she added, citing a new report from the GSMA that highlights the 200+ ‘mobile money for the unbanked’ services currently live in 83 countries.
“Mobile money is increasingly gaining scale and becoming a core service,” Bouverot said. “Mobile money is now becoming a core service for mobile operators rather than a differentiator; this is especially true in Sub-Saharan Africa, which boasts 53 per cent of all live mobile money services and where services are available in 36 out of 47 countries in the region.”
Bouverot closed her address by highlighting recent collaboration among operators to deliver interoperable mobile money services: “A great example of that is in Indonesia, where the largest mobile operators in that country, Indosat, Telkomsel and XL, have launched an interoperable mobile payments solution, providing the first demonstration case of wallet-wallet interconnectivity.”
“Clearly, we have made great progress in a relatively short period of time. However, there is still much work to be done in further expanding the reach of mobile money and bringing an even greater number of these services to scale,” she concluded.