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Youth of today demand mobile payments

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Old fogies might worry about wireless pickpockets and dead batteries, but the next generation is crying out to be able to buy stuff on their mobile phones, according to Alcatel-Lucent.

The company's Youth Lab - a research arm limited to those born between 1977 and 1998 - found that almost 90 per cent of youth would happily pay a monthly fee for for a mobile-phone wallet, mainly for the privilege of not having to wait in line for movie tickets.

The study was limited to just over 200 participants, spread over 10 countries and self selected. Some insight into the demographic may be gleaned from the fact that a third of the participants had already used their mobile phone to buy bus or rail tickets, and almost the same figure to pay for parking.

Participants were most interested in buying tickets for movies, checking their bank balances, paying for public transport and collecting electronic coupons. Which is interesting as none of those applications needs the Near Field Communications-based technology that Alcatel-Lucent is trying to promote.

Orange has been happily selling movie tickets for years, while mobile banking is commonplace. Masabi has been busy putting bus and train tickets onto phone screens, and has just raised another £2m to take the technology beyond the UK. For loyalty there's Cardmobili, who recently won Vodafone's Clicks competition, and FourSquare has an entire business model based on delivery of location-based coupons. None of those solutions needs more hardware, but such is the allure of a technical solution that the NFC bandwagon continues to roll.

At the end of Alcatel-Lucent's report (pdf - shorter than one might expect) we find the motivation behind it - the pitch is to network operators whose control of the handset, and SIM, leaves them well placed to take advantage of NFC.

At the risk of sounding like spam the report urges operators to: "Create new revenue streams", "Reduce churn rates", "Tap new markets" and "Climb in the wireless value chain", all by deploying Alcatel-Lucent's touchatag sticker-based technology.

What's sad is that the company is probably right - most of the population, particularly the younger part of it, isn't worried about having pockets picked remotely (which is minimised by NFC's use of induction for power) or losing a phone (no worse than losing an Oyster Card), and while everything NFC does can be done another way there is an advantage of having a single secure storage element and local communication channel.

But despite the real opportunity for network operators they'll likely miss it. Unfortunately for them the demographic that's interested in proximity payments has more respect for Facebook and PayPal than any network operator, which bodes badly for those who are tempted by Acatel-Lucent's argument. ®

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