Infobip is planning to grow its mobile payments and consulting business in the U.S., betting the robust consumer adoption of mobile technology will create a substantial opportunity for carrier billing.
"The U.S. market is attractive because of the penetration of smartphones," says Paolo Rizzardini, vice president of mobile payments for Infobip. "It's a tough market to get into because of the regulatory environment, but it is well worth it."
Infobip, a London-based company that sells hosted technology that connects mobile network operators and businesses, has supported mobile payments since 2011. The company has an office in San Francisco, though most of its work in the U.S. has been for clients that offer payments in other countries.
Infobip's payments activities include a mix of consultation, partnerships with telecoms and deployment of payment systems for clientswhich are often companies that want to offer a broad mobile payments program across national boundaries.
"More often we see companies are looking for not just a payments gateway, but a consultant that can help them take care of all of the specifications," Rizzardini says.
Infobip currently has more than 80 people developing mobile payments technology and is projecting 100 percent revenue growth in mobile payments in 2013. Infobip's Centili mobile payments platform allows small online payments to be charged directly to users' mobile phone bills.
Infobip is active in more than 80 countries and has offices in six continents, and uses that geographic reach to provide intelligence on a local payments marketsuch as regulations, user preferences, and adoption of certain payments methods. It then reports back to the client and builds a managed payments program with a consistent branding and design across nations, but with different functions based on what works in each country.
"Some countries may be more familiar with the mobile wallet model, for example, or may use SMS [text messages] for payments, or have certain rules that differ from other countries," Rizzardini says.
The company's clients include Nordeus, the online gaming company behind Top Eleven, a game with more than 11 million monthly and 5 million daily users on the Web, Android and iOS devices. Since most of the game's players are under 25 or don't have access to credit cards, Nordeus tapped Infobip to develop a way to sell gaming tokens. Nordeus deployed Infobit's Centili platform globally, most recently in Vietnam.
"We delivered a payment flow for Vietnam that Nordeus didn't even know was available," says Rizzardini, adding that in Italyone of Nordeus' prime markets, the average transaction value has increased to nearly $6 from $2 in about a year.
Infobip may face headwinds in selling carrier billing to the U.S. "There are a handful of carrier billing companies, but it really hasn't taken off yet," says Gil Luria, a vice president at Wedbush Securities.
PayPal has a presence through eBay's acquisition of Zong, he notes. David Marcus, Zong's chief executive, later became president of PayPal. Many consultants also offer guidance on mobile payment deployments in international markets, Luria says.
"At this point in carrier billing, the real opportunity in carrier billing is around digital goods, in-app payments and micro transactions," Luria says.
Other companies active in carrier billing include Boku, which recently launched payments via "smart televisions" for games.
"PayPal has a great penetration in the U.S. market," says Rizzardini, adding there is still room in the U.S. for carrier billing.