There are a great many mobile payment and remittances services already up and running around the world. We’ve discussed the Kenyan M-PESA scheme before, for example, and that is now being extended to offer an international money transfer service in conjuction with Citigroup. The service will let Vodafone customers in the UK send money, typically to family or friends in other countries, using either a mobile phone or website. The mobile remittance service is initially rolling out in Kenya, with other countries lined up.
What’s different about the MasterCard and GSMA scheme (known as the Mobile Money Transfer, MMT, scheme), I assume, is that it will allow customers of one operator with a MasterCard to send money to customers of another operator (provided they have a MasterCard, presumably), so it keeps the payments industry in the telco loop. It’s been welcomed in developing countries such as India. Dayanidhi Maran, Indian Union minister of communications and information technology says, “The project is particularly relevant and important for India which is the largest recipient of international remittances from about 20 to 25 million Indians working across 130 countries. The World Bank has estimated that in 2005 Indian expatriates remitted over $22 billion back home." The UN reckon that there are over 200 million people worldwide who live and work away from their homes and these people, in 2005, remitted over $230 billion. Hardly a niche, and plenty of transaction revenues to be earned. But as Hannes sagely points out the most interesting result of this and other similar initiatives will be the number of people that potentially could be drawn into the banking space. If the banks are alert to the opportunities and can deliver appropriate low-cost products, they could see millions and millions of new customers.
In another less well-developed (so far as mobile is concerned) market, the USA, yet another mobile SMS-based P2P service has been launched. I wonder what sort of the traction these services will get? They have no future at retail point-of-sale (because of contactless and then NFC) so they must focus on remote point-of-sale or person-to-person. It’s hard to go head-to-head with PayPal in the P2P space unless you come up with something radically better, so that leaves remote POS. Here, I think, is the opportunity for partnerships and shared networks. TextPayMe allow payments on Craigslist, which seems like a good place to start. But is it enough?
My opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public. [posted with ecto]