Australians want to use their mobiles for more than talk

A global study has revealed that Australian mobile phone users are keen to use their phones to pay for small purchases such as train tickets and vending machine snacks despite only 2 per cent ever having actually performed some sort of m-commerce transaction. The study also found that 72 per cent of Australian mobile phone owners use SMS text messaging and 46 per cent said they'd use an e-cash payment facility if given the chance.

Late last week, Virgin Mobile Asia said it expects non-voice transactions to rise to one-third of sales within five years as customers start buying airline tickets and other products using their handsets.

29 per cent of Australians use SMS daily, compared with 2 per cent in the US and 23 per cent worldwide. One of the study's authors, AT Kearney, said that Australians' propensity for using SMS augurs well for newer technologies such as MMS (multimedia messaging service), EMS (enhanced messaging service) and m-commerce (paying for goods and services via the Internet using a mobile phone).

According to AT Kearney, Australia's electronic payments market is now worth $US1 billion ($A1.9 billion) and is forecast to grow to $US2.4 billion by 2005. Mobile phone-enabled payments are forecast to grow to $US14 million by that time.

AT Kearney's Mark Higgins says that mobile phones can be used in three ways for e-cash: the purchase appears on the customer's mobile phone bill; the purchase is debited directly from the customer's bank account; or a stored-value option is on the phone, similar to pre-paid call cards.

Until m-commerce becomes commonplace, the use of SMS by advertisers and organisations will increase.