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Cellphone payments set to take off Add to ...

Instead of scrambling for their wallets to pay for groceries, consumers around the world will increasingly be able to use their mobile phones.

Mobile payments are set to almost triple, from $240-billion (U.S.) to $670-billion, by 2015, according to a Juniper Research report released Tuesday. The bulk of mobile transactions, which could include buying movie tickets on smartphone applications or tapping a phone to buy coffee, will happen in North America, Western Europe, and East Asia.

As mobile commerce expands, major phone makers, credit-card companies, payment service providers, and telecoms are battling for a share of the market.

Waterloo, Ont.-based Research In Motion Ltd., for example, announced in February that the next BlackBerry will have so-called near-field communication, a technology that allows users to tap their phone to make a purchase.

Both Google Inc. – in a partnership with MasterCard Inc., Citigroup Inc., First Data, and Sprint – and Visa Inc. announced in May separate “digital wallet” projects that are to launch later this year.

“Consumers and merchants are changing the way they buy and sell,” said Michael Bradley, head of products for Visa Canada.

He said Visa’s digital wallet means consumers won’t have to enter their credit card information every time they make an online purchase from a different merchant. “If it’s a pain in the neck [to enter your credit card number]when you’re shopping on the Internet, you can imagine how much of a pain it would be on a cellphone.”

By making it more convenient to pay with a mobile device, Visa hopes to expand its market share in the payment sector, Mr. Bradley said. Visa will explore partnerships with banks and cellphone providers to broaden the market, he added, pointing to a trial mobile payment system with Rogers Communications Inc. and the Royal Bank of Canada a few years ago.

Mobile payments have a bright future in Canada because consumers are tech-savvy and adopt technology quickly, said Michael Gokturk, chief executive officer of Payfirma, a payment processor that entered the mobile payment field six months ago.

He expects consumers and business alike will quickly adopt the idea of paying for purchases using mobile devices. “How many times have you forgotten your wallet or purse at home?” he said. “But I bet you never forget your phone.”

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