[Anthony Pickup] To get an up-to-date understanding of the context for m-payments, I went along to the Mobile Retail Show at the Institute of Engineers (which reminds us what the UK engineers have done for the world) and Monetising the Mobile Internet at the Royal Statistical Society covered similar issues around how to extract value from users of the mobile internet, from advertising, m-commerce and so on. They both had some discussion of the payment methods available.

Let’s look at the mobile internet – shall we start by thinking about the device interface. Well there is the size, the variability of functionality from text-only through to near full colour and functionality with all being in use. I do remember devices that were non-colour but I am old and the majority of these devices were the human interfaces into large computer systems – indeed the computer workers of the world may still use ‘TSO’ screens to access ‘REAL’ computers. Interesting there are now similar band width issues on the communications channel from GPRS through to HSDPA. (This is not quite as bad as dial-up / PSTN through to broadband / ADSL and beyond.)

So what, you may ask. I see this as the creation of another digital divide created by market forces and the speed of mobile technology development. I ask you who changes their laptop or desktop computer more often than their mobile phone? We will create a market where some people are able to access information and services on the move and others that can not. One area where the opposite is occurring is mobile network delivered internet access (the world of dongles). This technology is reaching a tipping point where it is easier, quicker to get working and for some users cheaper to access the Internet this way than over the classic ADSL (fixed line) technologies. I have had my dongle now for 15 months, during which time it has gone from a niche ‘3’ product to a core service for all operators, and now I think I will pass my device up to my mother-in-law to replace her dial-up access. It took my wife four years to teach her to text and boy does she text now – even though severely disabled with arthritis. I doubt it will take that long to get her on Skype messaging, voice and then video calls with her daughter – who does not know what Skype is yet. This I believe will be cheaper easier to use and probably more reliable that here current dial-up even though she is North of Stirling.

But back to what Consult Hyperion are interested in. Payments and identity. I mainly went to these events to find out more on the ‘Payforit’ service, the UK operators billing service. There was a lot of talk about it a couple of years ago and it has been live for some time and now has all UK operators taking part. So to the details: transactions up to £10; transactions across all UK phones billed to accounts – straight off the phone; maximum pay out rates of 90% (is this pricing out some retailers?).

As my erstwhile employer Dave Birch has pointed out, cash costs and it is not really that convenient for the mobile generation what needs to change to make it fly. For low value transactions a better pay-out rate and for larger transactions some form of customer verification to ensure the phone owner has given permission to make the transaction. The first is easy: operators need to look at making five pence on billions or transactions rather than, my estimate of an average of 10p on 50 to 100 million transactions. The second needs more work although with creative thinking we, in this country, should be able to solve this for the world to power another revolution.”

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