[Dave Birch] Mobile payments aren’t all about NFC and proximity. As you may recall, some time before RBS and Barclays announced their NFC pilots, the U.K. mobile operators launched a payment scheme allowing customers to pay through their mobile phone accounts for items such as train tickets, and parking fees. The new PayForIt technology scheme mobile phone customers to credit small purchases up to £10 to their mobile phone accounts, a scheme likened (not by me) to turning mobile phones into ‘digital wallets’. The reason why I don’t like this terminology is because in my distorted world view, a wallet is something that you can put cash in, and cash is something you can use to pay other people, not just merchants. Real m-cash can be transferred from person to person.

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Meanwhile, there’s at least one mobile payment system that is already providing real m-cash, using secure SIM toolkit applications and encrypted and signed text messages in a mass market. And before anyone comments to point out the connection, let me say up front that my employer, Consult Hyperion, provides paid professional services to Vodafone in the connection with this project. M-PESA has gone from having 140,000 customers back in June to having a million customers today. That’s a million customers in its first nine months of operation, a seventh of the Safaricom customer base. In October alone, £7.5m was transferred, mostly in small sums of about £10. (According to that Times article, the mobile operator takes some 5% commission, worth £375,000 of October’s dealings.) Good for them. And to celebrate their millionth customer, I have on my desk a brand new M-PESA baseball hat and t-shirt combination that in the now traditional fashion I will cheerfully send to the first person to reply to this thread with the name of Kenya’s first president following independence from Britain in 1964. Also in the now traditional fashion, the offer is open to all except for employees and associates of Consult Hyperion and members of my immediate family. There are no cash alternatives. Oh, and no-one can win more than one of these blog competitions per year.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


  1. Everything’s too easy with Google (!!) but you’re a winner nonetheless. I’ll e-mail you to arrange delivery of your prize.

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