It is almost inevitable that as soon as we publish a little retrospective on the state of mobile payments, something seismic seems to happen. Actually several seismic somethings.
The first, actually more early warning rumble than actual seismic something, was that the trigger for the retrospective, the statistic from Juniper that mobile payments would reach $507 billion this year, was a) a whole lot less than they predicted in 2011 and b) that Open Mobile Media say that mobile commerce was worth $13.8 billion last year and mobile payments will be worth $721 billion by 2018.
The reason it caught the eye was that, as online and offline – no, sorry, real/actual – shopping become blurred, the very definitions of m-commerce and m-payments probably need to be redefined. If you buy something through a mobile web site – a well designed one – then that is m-commerce. If you buy something in a shop and pay for it with your mobile, via NFC say (sorry, we love our little jokes here at BillingViews Central), then is that m-commerce or is that simply an m-payment.
We should be told – or at least we should get these defined.
The seismic one, that most seemed to think was ‘innovative’ and ‘interesting,’ was that Facebook is seriously climbing into payments. Actually, so it seems, money transfers.
They are on the brink of getting an e-money license in Ireland which will be valid throughout the EU. This will allow them to offer customers the platform to send money ‘back home’. The speculation is that this will help Facebook ‘crack’ many emerging markets – and presumably allow them to ‘thumb their nose’ at the tiny telco Vodafone at the same time. A remittance service on the back of a global social network makes a lot of sense.
And will make Facebook a lot of money.
So, it is slightly irritating that Sir Zuckerberg stood up, er, sat down at Mobile World Congress and said that free Internet for all is what us telcos need to deliver. And only the cynic in anyone would think ‘so that would hugely increase the number of Facebook users in emerging countries so that you can set up, oh, a money remittance service and make another shed load of cash.’ Only, as stated, the very most utterly cynical would even countenance such a thought.
Not that BillingViews is averse to a shed load of cash, we have been ‘following the money’ for a decade or two now, and we keep promising ourselves that one day – one day – we will catch up with the stuff.
As the main seismic event receded, we were left with a couple of after shocks – a realization really, that for the OTT players, such as Facebook and Google, Ground Zero is communications, connectivity – the glue. While telcos try and find ways of harnessing OTT players’ offerings to customers, both Facebook and Google are going after new ones. Google is rumoured to be thinking about a mobile network buy, even a drone buy, to deliver connectivity to remote areas. Both are trying to find that social key – or keys – that will bring in the last billion or so customers.
And they are prepared to pay. A trusted BillingViews source recently mentioned that Google looked at WhatsApp and although they passed, believed that the $9 billion price tag was cheap. As did Facebook. No-one else thought it was.
Why? ‘Future value, future value’ we were told.
Let us hope they focus on being competitive with each other and give the communications industry a chance to ready itself for whatever happens next.
The next one might be the big one.