"For the unbanked sector, banks are not in a leadership role. This area is being driven primarily by telecoms that have wider coverage in terms of distribution network and better customer relationships with people using their mobile services," stated Sandy Shen, research director at Gartner.
Pakistan's Easypaisa is one such mobile service. Launched in 2009 by Telenor Pakistan and Tameer Micro Finance Bank, customers can register for a mobile account and have access to a full range of services without the need to travel long distances to banks.
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After customers sign up for an account, they receive an enabled handset and key in a unique pass-code, similar to an ATM password. To pay bills or transfer funds, individuals bring cash to the authorized retailer who completes the transaction on their behalf.
By the end of 2012, Easypaisa processed more than 100 million transactions with a throughput of more than US$ 1.4 billion.
But competition in the market differs from country to country, primarily due to government regulation.
"In India, regulators have different attitudes toward mobile banking services. The central bank requires telecom firms and banks to work together with banks holding licenses to transaction platforms," Shen explained.
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As a result, Indian lenders have been among the quickest to embrace a mobile-first strategy. Last year, the country's largest private sector bank ICICI teamed up with Vodafone India to bring Africa's famed mobile payment service M-Pesa to customers.
Last year also saw Indonesia's central bank inviting commercial banks and mobile network operators to introduce hybrid products in certain rural areas.
While both banks and alternative financial platforms race to pioneer ways to offer more mobile-based services, IDC's Zink says the real disruption to the industry will be the ability to guide consumer preferences.
"Contextual marketing, offering the customer what he/she needs at the right time, in the right place and based on his/her individual needs, will be the battlefield of future commerce. This will not only increase the income from more transactions, but also generate new revenues from value-added services around the transaction," he said.