Mobile payment - Arthur D. Little

Telecom & Media Viewpoint
Mobile payment
Is this the turning point?
Mobile payment has been on the agenda of numerous players across industries for more than a decade. Now, with Apple
Pay and Google Wallet launched and the markets equipping themselves, mobile payment may finally take off. Is this the
turning point in developed markets?
Mobile payment has taken off, but not in developed
markets – until now
Mobile payment has taken off on a global scale, accounting for
a total of 285 billion USD in 2014 and representing 7% of global
electronic transactions. Arthur D. Little expects these figures to
continue growing at a fast pace, exceeding 800 billion USD
by 2017.
Figure 1: Global m-payment value forecast [2013-17, bn USD]
A well-known success story in developed markets is the
Starbucks mobile payment app. The app was launched in 2011
and counted 12 million users in 2014, which the firm claimed
accounted for about 90% of US mobile payment transactions.
Other prominent examples are driven by Korea Telecom in South
Korea and NTT DoCoMo in Japan. Nevertheless, success stories
in developed markets are mostly regionally bound and specific,
such that they have not been replicated or extended on a global
Nonetheless, Arthur D. Little believes a turning point for
mobile payment in developed markets is more likely than ever
before. Key reasons include the maturity of mobile payment
technologies, the level of equipment available to customers and
merchants and awareness of mobile payment services.
cashless societies early are still in a nascent stage. In Sweden,
for example, where cash payments decreased to 22% of total
transactions, mobile payments still only represented 3% of
transactions as of 2014.
Source: Arthur D. Little (2015)
However, growth rates were mainly driven by emerging
markets. By the end of 2014, 259 initiatives were operating
in emerging markets and 21 had reached more than 1 million
subscribers. Those markets lack widespread banking service
networks, and mobile payment addresses the need for easily
accessible, secure money transfer and storage.
In developed economies, though, mobile payment is lagging
behind expectations. Even markets that transformed into
M-payment technologies are mature, but a standard
has not yet been set
The mobile payment ecosystem is complex, with numerous
technologies implemented as of today. Those vary, especially in
one key aspect – the communication standard used to execute
the transaction.
Communication technology
Providers in emerging markets have largely leveraged SMS /
USSD1 due to its compatibility with any mobile phone and ease
1 Unstructured Supplementary Service Data is a protocol that enables standard mobile phones to communicate with the service provider’s computers
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of implementation. The most prominent examples are M-Pesa,
originally started in Kenya, and bKash in Bangladesh – both of
which now count over 20 million users.
In developed markets, however, no leading technology standard
has been set. Depending on their background, key players push
different technologies.
The Near Field Communication (NFC) standard, for example,
emulates a contactless payment card on the mobile phone and
therefore permits card-present transactions. The technology has
been on the market for a number of years, is operated broadly
in transportation applications (see the Arthur D. Little report
Riding the Mobile Ticketing Wave), and enables numerous other
services such as loyalty programs and couponing. It recently
gained particular public attention when it was embedded in
Apple’s iPhone 6. The main challenge is the cost of upgrading
the merchant POS terminals to be NFC ready.
Quick Response (QR) code is a technology compatible with all
smartphones, as the user only needs to scan a code generated
by the merchant, e.g. on a tablet screen. Today the technology is
particularly known in the US for its application in the Starbucks
mobile payment solution. The upcoming initiative CurrentC,
by Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), which gathers major
retailers in the US, relies on QR codes provided by Paydiant,
which was recently acquired by PayPal.
Besides NFC and QR code-based solutions, mobile internet
payment solutions have been popular in recent years, despite
necessitating a continuous broadband connection to enable the
service. Prominent examples of providers using this technology
are Alipay and Tenpay, which represented over 85% of mobile
transactions in China by the end of 2014. Using mobile internet,
they provide a customer journey that is similar to an online
purchasing experience.
In the wide range of mobile payment solutions offered,
further promising technologies exist. However, these display a
considerably lower level of maturity compared to the solutions
mentioned above. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), which shows
considerable potential for context-based value-added services,
is such a technology. A further technology is Magnetic Secure
Transmission (MST) offered by LoopPay. The company, recently
acquired by Samsung, provides an MST service that mimics a
magnetic card swipe and can therefore make use of existing
magnetic card terminals. This could have a significant impact on
mobile payment adoption in countries where the EMV standard
is not fully deployed, such as the US. Another promising
technology, Soundwave, makes use of white noise generated
by a smartphone to carry payment information. However, the
service is currently offered by a limited number of providers
such as the leading Asian player Alipay, which launched the
service in 2015. Figure 2 below gives a breakdown of the
communication technologies
2 Mobile payment
Figure 2: Overview of most common mobile payment
# of
QR / Bar
NFC Smartphones
Source: Arthur D. Little (2015)
Security enablers – beware the weakest element
A first security enabler involves payment credential storage, in
which mobile payment players have pushed different types of
secure elements (SEs) depending on the assets they aim to
MNOs have long pushed to establish the SIM cardembedded SE as a standard.
andset manufacturers have more recently introduced
handset-embedded SEs (eSEs), which they can directly
ver-the-top (OTT) players such as Google have championed
cloud-based solutions, in which the SE is accessed via the
data connection.
More recently, providers have started to introduce tokenization
layers to enhance payment risk protection. Tokenization replaces
the payment credential with a limited-use, non-sensitive
substitute (token). This ensures that the payment credential
does not need to be replaced in case of fraud.
Additionally, significant progress has been made on
authentication technologies. By 2014, 300 million devices had
biometric sensors implemented, which further improved the
security of executing a mobile payment transaction. Fingerprint
recognition is the most popular technology in this area, and the
most integrated by handset manufacturers. Another means that
has gained significant attention in this field is facial recognition,
which was recently demonstrated by Alibaba.
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Apple Pay
The recent launch of Apple Pay has brought the mobile payment
topic back into the spotlight. This is also due to the fact that
Apple Pay has combined and leveraged multiple success factors,
which few operators have managed to do. With the combination of eSE for credential storage, tokenization and fingerprint
authentication, as well as the use of NFC, Apple enables
both a high level of security and a smooth customer journey.
In addition, in the introduction of its payment service, Apple
benefits from a strong trust relationship across its customer
base and has managed to onboard major banks. The only lever
that Apple cannot immediately activate is the development of
the merchant acceptance network.
operation across the world. With the required POS terminal
upgrades ongoing and several European markets having
engaged in this upgrade, as well as the ongoing transition to
the EMV standard in the US, this trend is accelerating. By 2019
worldwide acceptance will increase to 75 million – which would
more than double the number of Visa card acceptance points in
Figure 4: Worldwide NFC enabled POS terminals
The market is mobilizing
Users have become equipped. Among the different technologies
identified, NFC requires specific end-user equipment. As a
matter of fact, all leading mobile phone manufacturers (namely
Samsung, Apple, Huawei and Xiaomi) market NFC-enabled
smartphones. Market forecasts anticipate an 81% NFC
penetration in the worldwide handset base by 2019.
Figure 3: Worldwide NFC enabled smartphone shipments
in millions and penetration in %
1 760
Source: Technavio (2014)
In addition, users have shown increased willingness to use
mobile payments for their daily purchases. In Europe, 185m
users will utilize a mobile payment app this year, up 51% on
2014, according to a study by ING.
Lastly, the merchant network is developing. With large retailers
planning to push mobile payments in their stores in the US
and numerous initiatives active in the mobile payment space
worldwide, the network of acceptance points for the yet
heterogeneous mobile payment technologies is increasing
steadily. The growing presence of mobile payment technologies
is also reflected in the growing network of NFC acceptance
points pushed by terminal manufacturers such as Ingenico.
In 2014, there were 21 million NFC-enabled POS terminals in
2 Original Equipment Manufacturer refers to handset manufacturers
3 Over The Top refers to Internet players
3 Mobile payment
Source: Berg insight (2015)
The course is set – what impact does this have
on the players in the market?
We believe mobile payment is at a turning point, with customers
embracing digital behavior, technological solutions providing the
right level of convenience of use and security, and a steadily
increasing acceptance network. Hence, we must explore how
this will impact the different players in the market.
Mobile network operators
1 120
2 800
Mobile network operators (MNOs) have been active in this
space for over a decade, but with limited success of their
third-party partnership models. They are now facing an everdecreasing window of opportunity as other players seek to
bypass them. MNOs, nevertheless, still possess key assets
in mobile payment, namely the secure element on the SIM
and their customer relationships. They are now challenged to
find ways of leveraging those assets, e.g. by establishing a
nationwide hub trusted service manager (TSM) that could be
used by financial institutions or other third parties.
Banks and payment networks
While payment networks have maintained their place at the
forefront of innovation, banks have shown more reluctance to
fully engage with mobile payment. Nevertheless, they have
managed to demonstrate that they still play a central role in the
ecosystem. This role has been confirmed in the latest OEM2and OTT3-driven service scenarios. However, more recent
models and, more specifically, merchant-driven initiatives (e.g.
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Starbucks, MCX) show alternative approaches in which the
acquisition network does not need to rely on banks. Hence,
building on their historically strong position, banks are being
challenged to engage more strongly in innovation to maintain
their role in the future of the ecosystem.
Limited merchant adoption is often mentioned as the main
reason for the failure of mobile payment initiatives. Recent
examples of partners blocking the roll-out of Apple Pay in the US
show that merchants have a strong influence on the ecosystem
takeoff. In addition to being one of the key enablers of a
solution, merchants also need to manage the stretch between
leveraging the customer relationship with, for example,
enhanced loyalty and couponing services or detailed customer
analytics while managing customers’ skepticism towards
boundary-less use of analytics.
Handset manufacturers
Handset manufacturers have been late entrants to the mobile
payment market, but could still become relevant and gamechanging players. They have benefited from the limited success
of using the secure element on the SIM by integrating it into a
secure element in the handset to store the payment token. The
key challenge we see for those players is to achieve a critical
mass and ensure sufficient customer stickiness so
as to establish partnerships with banks.
OTT/software providers
Mobile payment has become an increasingly attractive playing
field for OTTs, which often benefit from strong customer
relationships and already have billing information. Their solutions
are mostly device agnostic and therefore have the potential to
reach the whole population. Google’s acquisition of Softcard
shows the continuous willingness of the company to establish
its footprint within payments and might represent the first step
of an enhanced partnership with MNOs.
Despite significant developments, especially in developed
markets, no clear model or winner has been established yet.
Hence, all players are still in a position to participate, as we
believe the market will structure around global as well as local
Among global players, Apple is well positioned and expanding
its mobile payment service to Europe as of July 2015. Google is
also accelerating to grasp its shares in the market by integrating
its service in the main US MNOs’ smartphones, thanks to
its acquisition of Softcard. At the same time, the hardware
manufacturer Samsung is positioning to release a payment
product for its mobile phones.
On a more local scale, MNOs are highly relevant to playing a key
role in both B2C and B2B developments thanks to their local
footprint and market understanding.
Nonetheless, the window of opportunity is closing. There is
an urgent call for all players to position and go to market with
convincing strategies for success in the mobile payment space.
Arthur D. Little’s global team of telecom management
consultants has supported numerous mobile network operators,
financial institutions and related players developing and
implementing their mobile payment strategies.
Karim Taga
[email protected]
Didier Levy
[email protected]
Julien Duvaud-Schelnast, Martin Born
Arthur D. Little
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