Payments in Asia: a multi-tier economy?

Last updated: 10 June 2014

With Mobile Asia Expo kicking off tomorrow, over the next few days on the blog we’ll be taking a look at three key areas of the Asian mobile market, starting with payments.

The first thing to remember when looking at the Asian market is that to consider it as a single entity is somewhat misleading. There are multiple tiers of mobile development in Asia, from mature markets with high smartphone penetration, rapidly-growing markets with huge potential and many others all at varying levels of mobile payments adoption.

Some of the more mature markets have well-developed infrastructures for mobile or contactless payments. Japan is one Asian nation where mobile and contactless payments have been deployed far in advance compared to other countries which are catching up very rapidly, including Hong Kong, Singapore and China. However, while the technology is now mature, adoption levels remain relatively low. It is today very difficult to assess how long it will take for this new tech to become mainstream.

Most experts now agree that rolling out contactless payments in the form of cards will eventually facilitate the use of NFC mobile payments. Once contactless payments are widespread, it will be simpler to convince consumers that an NFC chip in their mobile will work the same way, and in this sense Asia looks well-set: shipments of contactless cards to the Asian market increased 193% in 2013, higher than in any other region. Indeed, China Telecom is one operator leading the way, working closely with us to give its mobile subscribers the opportunity to pay for everyday services using contactless, including traveling on public transport.

Another example of a country that has adopted contactless payments with gusto is Australia. Within six months of launching contactless payments in its stores, Australian supermarket Coles reported that the technology now accounted for half of its transactions. Meanwhile, Visa has reported that contactless payments have halved fraud levels in the country to just two cents per $100 spent.

Australia seems primed for a contactless mobile revolution in the years ahead and China, where Mobile Asia Expo is starting tomorrow, will also make advances, with China Unicom having launched the first NFC payment service in China with the Unicom Merchants’ Bank mobile wallet last year and China Mobile also taking this direction. All the signs indicate that Asian markets are set to follow in driving consumer adoption of contactless, in which case they will not be far behind in the move towards ubiquitous mobile payments. To find out more, visit us in Hall N2 at stand B80 and follow us @Gemalto_Asia or #GemaltoMAE.