Sound-Based Payments Target Developing Economies but Face Long Road to Consumer Take-Up

By: 
K.N. Smith

NFC TIMES Exclusive – With two sound-based payments launches in India in September, the technology has drawn some interest, but although several banks in emerging countries have signed on with sound-based payments platforms, consumer take-up remains unclear, and it’s likely that the road to adoption will be at least as slow as that faced by NFC payments in developed markets.

Sound-based payments have been touted by some as a way to reach “unbanked” populations in countries where rolling out EMV and contactless infrastructure widely is impractical but where most people carry mobile phones with microphones.

Proponents say the advantage of sound-based payments in emerging economies, from India to the Democratic Republic of Congo to Columbia, is that it opens up “contactless payments” to feature phone users, who form a significant portion of the payments market in those economies. In Nigeria, for example, 90% of consumers have a mobile phone, while only 30% carry smartphones. To use sound-based payments, the phones need only to come equipped with a microphone, which most feature phones do. They don’t need to pack an NFC chip or a mobile wallet, which are most often found only on smartphones.

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