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I visited ICT event in Helsinki this week. Especially the keynote speakers and the panel discussions were interesting. Mobile Internet panel touched one of my favourite subjects, mobile payment.

The funny thing of the subject is that I was speaking of it in Mobile Expo (I think that was the name of the event) in the same place about 7 to 10 years ago. I was young (hah, very funny) and enthusiastic at that time and sure that it will fly any day. All of the technology and the business models were there. What happened, or why it didn't happen?

For a long time mobile payment haven't been question about technology, it has been question about regulation and stakeholders. Regulator in Finland wants to have very detailed information in your mobile bill what you have bought and operators don't want to invest in their billing systems. Either statements don't hold water. Question is that how big effort you should (operator) do to be able to invoice bottle of lemonade? This was also mentioned in the panel. The key in these micro payments is that they should be very cost efficient. On the other hand, the investment is not so huge. I was early 2000 in team which actually developed that type expansion to the billing system and it was prepaid system which means that it had real-time requirement. We used commercial rule-engine and the cost was under 50k.

The real challenge comes from the stakeholders. Who would be the biggest losers? Banks and credit card companies, they are trying to protect their business. Now the situation looks like they are trying to get in to mobile payment markets, trials are already ongoing. My concern is that if there are too many players, prices will fly sky high, not usage.

Still, I believe that mobile payment will happen one day, we'll see when that day is.
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