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Telecom contactless payment crosses borders


Whatever the size of the mobile payment market, there's more to be had by telecom providers. The industry can position itself to take advantage of this opportunity with global consumers.

Mobile payments worldwide are growing rapidly, especially in Asia. For example, 86 percent of China’s population taps mobile payment apps, followed by 67 percent of consumers in Thailand, and in Vietnam, 61 percent of consumers go cashless. Instead of paying with cash or credit cards, payments are made through a machine-readable QR code, barcode, a downloaded app, a web browser, or a text message.

Growth has been driven by platforms on which online and brick-and-mortar stores and merchants are connected. For example, in addition to its 25 million users, PayPay is now supported by 1.94 million merchant partners and local stores in Japan.

Just 3 percent of mobile payments spend is billed by telecom providers. To gain a share of the mobile payments market, telecom needs to proactively add value to the payment process. And the industry is in a unique—and timely—position to do just that.

Mobile payment, touched only by the smartphone bearer, can keep people from getting sick.

Keep your hands to yourself

Influenza on banknotes can remain viable for up to 48 hours, and credit cards may be just as contaminated as cash. Any kind of payment that’s passed from person to person can carry a virus—just as door handles and hand railings might—and spread it on contact. Contactless payments can help make the world cleaner—and hopefully healthier—by limiting the spread of highly contagious viruses passed on a piece currency, and credit, debit, or gift cards.

As a result of COVID-19, 39% of consumers say they’re more likely to use contactless payment options.

A cross-border payment system

While the travel industry is facing devastating challenges, international travel for business and tourism will return. When it does, consumers will look for a more convenient and less expensive way to conduct payment transactions started on one side of a border and completed on another.

But there exists no singular effective, secure method for people buying goods and services from merchants abroad, particularly smaller ones. Such shops may not accept credit cards. Paying cash is cumbersome to travelers forced to exchange currency and dole out commission twice: first, at the time of exchange, and again should they find yen, rupees, or other global currencies in their pockets at the end of their visits.

Cross-border payments are a segment within contactless payment that shows great potential for telecom and one that adds user value. In a cross-border payment system (CBPS), carriers allow their mobile customers to pay local merchants anywhere in the world using their mobile accounts. The result is new revenue for carriers and more value for users.


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Meet the authors

Utpal Mangla, IBM Global Leader Watson AI, IoT, and Blockchain

Luca Marchi

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, IBM leader of the blockchain competency in the global TME Centre of Excellence


Ling Wu

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, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at TBCASoft


Wei Chen

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, Chief Financial Officer and Head of Global Business Development at TBCASoft