Biggest Mobile Payments success story, and it was not written in the US

Back in 2001 while all of us in States or otherwise were still talking about Y2k stories and Tech bubble burst, somewhere in the lesser “talked about” world, Mobile Payments were being conceptualized. It was in this corner of the world, which is marked by high per capita incomes, that companies such as Nokia and Seamless were putting the pieces together to disrupt “Money”. In September 2001 Nokia launched a dual-chip solution in collaboration with payment networks, banks and called it EMPS (Electronic Mobile Payment Services). One chip was a usual SIM (subscriber identity module) card and the other was a WIM (WAP identity module) card issued by the Finnish bank Nordea for making Visa Electron payments.

Nordics

Next year in 2002, Sonera a mobile operator launched Sonera Shopper service. In this system the customer opens a Shopper account and transfers money to it from his or her bank account (also allowed credit card load). It could be used to pay for purchases at merchants – So that goes a Shout out for the proximity payments as back in time as 2002.

Nordic countries have always stood out in hi-tech industry, especially in the field of telecommunication. Sweden, Finland and Denmark are renowned for their highly developed telecommunications equipments and handsets manufacturing industries. Global telecom companies like Ericsson (Sweden), Nokia (Finland) are from Nordic countries also referred to as scandinavian countries. The king who inspired the name Bluetooth was also from the same region. The Nordic telecommunications equipment/device manufacturers became global market leaders by 90s. As early as 2000 they were experimenting with services built on top of telecom networks. And payments was one such area.

So there should be no surprise now that the mobile payment adoption benchmarks actually come from that region. One of the main contributors to the rise of mobile payments in these countries is the increase in Mobile penetration and Mobile Internet penetration. Ofcourse the backdrop is the high per capita income and investments in R&D made by public units, private sector and academia.

Internet Penetration – In Sweden 94% of the population has access to the Internet. Across the world the highest internet penetration is found in Nordic countries. Sweden, Norway and Iceland, are the top three countries where Internet penetration is found to be the highest.

Mobile Penetration – The mobile penetration in Sweden is 150%, and its a heaven to experiment apps and services.

App download

Mobile Internet Penetration – The mobile internet penetration in Sweden is 92.7%. Which probably also means heavy usage of internet and connected apps on mobile devices. Sweden is the most active market for apps download with an average of five downloads per Smartphone user per month.

What is really interesting is that Sweden and other Nordic countries are again writing history with mobile payment revolution. There are no adoption issues and its a norm to use mobile for transit tickets, buying online or paying at stores. From telecom carriers to retailers and even banks are not leaving any stone unturned. Finally even the Technology sector is not behind and there are number of solutions in the market. Even solutions like Paybox (http://www.paybox.net) from other countries (Germany) are finding great acceptance in in this region (especially Finland).

Illustrative list of solutions in the market: 

Swedish mpayment

Example of Telecom led Programs – Swedish Mobile-phone operators Telia, Tele2, Telenor jointly started a service in 2013 called as WyWallet, their own payment system which opened the gates for 97% of Swedish mobile-phone users to pay for goods at participating businesses.

Example of Retailers led Programs – Swedish retail chain ICA has launched an NFC loyalty programme at the Kista, Stockholm branch of ICA To Go, a food service concept aimed at health conscious city dwellers. For every lunch purchased, customers receive a stamp in their loyalty “card”. After six stamps have been collected, they get their seventh lunch for free.

Examples of Bank and Third Party Led Programs – Swedish mobile payment specialist Seamless in partnership with various banks in the region is doing a lot of good work. SEQR added NFC tag based payments in April 2013 which will provide the users with the option of making payments through NFC enabled Smartphone’s. How does it work?

Seamless installs its proprietary system at the point of sale that comes with a sticker containing both a QR code and NFC capability. Shoppers need to install a Smartphone app called as SEQR, It supports QR code and NFC based technology where by user can execute any transaction by simply holding their phone against the sticker. The customer’s phone sends a small packet of data containing a user record and location to Seamless’ system, where card details and account numbers are stored.

In 2011, Seamless announced that its transaction switch does over 2.4 billion transactions per year at over 525,000 point of sales world wide.

You know when this company got started and why its important to know?  In 1999, visionary technologist Mikael Signarsson came up with the idea of letting people perform top-ups from wherever they are – internet or otherwise. With a team of 5 developers, an intense product development process began. In November that year, the first transaction in Sweden was performed for Brightpoint. And in 2001 the company Seamless was formed. Major mobile operators and some retail chains like 7-11, a petrol station and popular joint like Mc Donald’s joined in. The platform was developed in close co-operation with them.

There are another set of companies from Nordic region that are enabling Payment solution launches across the globe. Accumulate (provides gears for mobile banking and payment solutions) and Valimo (authentication, Mobile ID) are classic examples of those firms. So Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the inspiring story of mobile payment success from Nordic region. And what makes them one of the world leader in mobile payments today!

Also Read How does the Payment Footprint of truly global carriers looks like?

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Amit

Amit is a cashless payments enthusiast and advises companies in this space. He runs a successful Payments/ICT consulting firm (www.knowledgefaber.com) that serves Fortune 1000 clients and growing firms globally. He is an early investor and regular author for Lets Talk Payments. He is helping LTP become the biggest and most useful payment resource in the US, Asia and Europe.
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  • Daniel wang

    Good Article, especially the graphs and Illustrations are quite amazing!.