Worldwide mobile payment transactions will surpass $171.5 billion in 2012, up 62% from $106 million last year, according to a Gartner estimate. The number of mobile payment users will reach 212 million, up from 160 in 2011.
Looking further out, global mobile transaction volume is projected to grow 42% annually between 2011 and 2016, leading to a market worth $617 billion and 448 million users in four years.
Gartner expects Web access fees to account for the vast majority of payments in North America and Western Europe, at 88% and 80%, respectively. SMS remains the dominant access technology in developing markets, given the limitations of mobile devices and ubiquity of SMS.
Transactions using NFC (Near Field Communication) -- the wireless technology behind mobile payments initiatives like Google Wallet and Isis -- will remain fairly low through 2015, but growth will start to ramp up from 2016.
"NFC payment involves a change in user behavior and requires collaboration among stakeholders that includes banks, mobile carriers, card networks and merchants," said Sandy Shen, research director at Gartner. "It takes time for both to happen, so we don't expect NFC payments to come into the mass market before 2015. In the meantime, ticketing -- rather than retail payment -- will drive NFC transactions."
In mature markets, the research firm also expects strong growth in merchandise purchases via mobile, pointing to leaders in the space like Amazon, eBay and Starbucks. With the coffee giant’s Starbucks Card Mobile app being rolled out nationwide after a successful pilot program, Gartner predicts a large number of retailers will introduce their own mobile payment services.
For developing markets, money transfer and airtime top-ups will account for most transaction volume. Money transfers will also make up the largest portion of transaction value, due to the demand for secure and efficient ways to store and send money. Ticketing/parking is another strong area for m-payments growth in emerging regions.
Eastern Europe is forecast to have the highest user growth between 2011 and 2016, in part because of a smaller user base. Asia-Pacific tops all regions in the number of users, followed by Africa. “This also contributes to high transaction volume, where the two regions combined will account for more than 60% of the global mobile payments volume in 2016,” per Gartner.
Africa leads all regions in transaction value through the forecast period, resulting from a higher proportion of money transfers that have higher value per transaction than in other areas. North America will be the third-largest region by value in 2016 -- double the amount in Western Europe.
Because the mobile payments arena will be defined by fragmented services and solutions for the next two years, Gartner sees opportunities for technology providers catering to local markets. "The demand of these segments can only be satisfied by specialized or local players who can better understand the segment and have specific solutions to meet the unique challenges," said Shen.