Paym – mobile to mobile payments across all banks

Posted on March 10, 2014


During my 14 or so years thinking about mobile, and delivering services to boot, there has been a common thread for many of them and in particular person to person P2P services.

And no not lots of money,  and no not über coolness, nor even a perfect idea, it is …

Perceived ubiquity.

For P2P to really take off you need to be able to trust the other user can partake.  Receive a message, a picture, take a call etc.

Consider texting,  SMS was only a slightly used service till the operators were forced to interconnect,  them very very quickly the service rocketed into success.

Also consider MMS, yes most devices have MMS however quality and technical issues means that most of us have experienced failure, unable to send or receive a message, or that the pictures are bitterly disappointing.

Many of the mobile services have failed to take off, because they do not reach critical scale, and I include payment services in this group.

Why: Because the banks or the card services try to capture the whole market, by restricting the service to only their customers,  or to join is convoluted if your not yet a customer.

So when I read about the payments council launching a new person to person payments mechanism then I am hopeful that this time it could take off.

That’s because our biggest banks (at least here in the UK) are enrolled, and more are coming. Thus sending payment to someone’s phone number should become possible without worrying about which bank they use.

Now does not mean that this service will win the war,  however once they break the mold and provide a common service then others can come in and make better services, that will drive innovation in the market. This is a space that has the possibility to be very lucrative and for huge sums to be able to flow.  In the mostly unbanked African market many tens of percent of their GDP goes over mobile.  Here that will not be the case because we do have bank accounts,  however to be able to:

  • pay the market stall holder,
  • the plumber,
  • builder,
  • window cleaner,
  • pay your mate who paid for the taxi/drinks/lunch
  • betting, and other small shops …
  • charity

you get the picture, many many uses of cash and most importantly cheques can be replaced with a simple, fast and effective payment.

Of course the cheque is in the post lie will not wash,  but hey he world is far from perfect.

ohhh and the bbc now have a piece on it too.  They allude to the problem of universality in the very last para.

In case your wondering why it is perceived ubiquity rather than simple ubiquity,  then think of the MMS model,  yes the vast majority of feature and smart phones will exchange MMS messages,  however the service quality can be so poor that we do not think that it will work,  and so we do not perceive the service to be ubiquitous, because each failure causes a large hole in the skin of trust that we need to build up, and the perception of being able to just send pictures breaks down.  Of course with MMS this is made worse by the huge costs involved.  I was a peripheral architect at Vodafone on the MMS project,  and so a great supporter of the tech, as a concept,  but have sadly watch it fail as the issues are not resolved, and the cost remains prohibitive.