Sunday, April 29, 2007

The SIM Summit

I attended the SIM Summit in Prague last week. It was quite interesting from a number of perspectives for me. I had the distinct feeling that some of the delegates were looking at finding a reason for having a SIM card in a phone. On the Wednesday-afternoon I presented a talk during the "mobile payment" portion of the conference. I shared the platform with some of the older companies in this space (paybox, SK telecom) and some of the newer ones (Monetise).

The usual questions on why it is taking so long and why we have not seen the "google" of mobile payments yet where asked. I almost had the feeling that critics were saying that one should stop working on this type of solutions since it does not seem to deliver any benefits. In the meantime, the discussions on the "ecosystem" of NFC payments almost reached fever pitch at some stages. Every-one was talking about their pilot projects and what they have found. Yet it was clear that almost no phones would be available for this kind of thing (estimates were that not even 20% of phones will be NFC enabled by 2012), that nobody really knows where and what the business model for mobile NFC will be.

For me, though, mobile payments and banking is succeeding dramatically. From where I am sitting and what I am seeing a massive revolution is happening and growth in mobile payments is at a rate that have never before been seen in financial services before. If we compare any other change in financial services with mobile payments, none is happening at the rate of mobile payments. Look at how long it took credit cards to become mainstream, or ATM's or Internet banking (and how much has been invested before it was successful). In countries like South Africa, DRC and Nigeria (where we have deployed solutions) and others like Austria, Slovenia, South-Korea and (of course) the Philippines, it is clear that mobile payments are delivering good solutions to subscribers, stakeholders and banks.

Failures like Simpay and others should not be taken as the template for this industry.

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