It may yet take "a little bit of time" for mobile banking services to catch on in Latin America, Robert Waaler, director of product marketing for Munich-based Giesecke & Devrient (G&D) - which specializes in smartcard solutions for communication and payment - told BNamericas.
"Especially in Brazil, Argentina and Chile, you already have a fairly extensive network of bank branches and ATMs. But there is an increasing need as people become more mobile and mobile penetration is reaching saturation point in Latin America. The potential for these mobile banking applications is really picking up," he said.
While contracts that G&D has with Latin American mobile operators regarding mobile banking are still in the works, Waaler noted a "definitive interest" from Latin American operators at G&D's stand at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), which took place last week in Barcelona.
"If you look at Africa or South Asia, a lot of the success of those applications is that people don't have any possibility to carry out financial transactions or get access to financial services, other than via mobile," he added.
Another area of interest G&D noted at the MWC was near field communications (NFC) technology. Earlier this week, leading mobile operators committed to global interoperability of NFC technology, including América Móvil (NYSE: AMX) and Telefónica (NYSE: TEF), which plan to launch commercial NFC services in select markets by 2012.
The handset manufacturers have also committed to delivering NFC-enabled devices, Waaler said. "That will be a driving factor. It has been a bit of a 'chicken or the egg' situation; there are solutions that can be deployed, but you need to have the terminal infrastructure in place," he added. "In much the same way as the advent of the smartphone, which really made mobile internet come to life, we're starting to see that with NFC - where we're getting the critical mass - you'll now see many more NFC deployments happening."
G&D is banking its Latin America success on the array of services it provides, the executive said. "We can provide end-to-end solutions for mobile security, everything from the physical token - be that a SIM card, a secure micro SD, the NFC chip technology, the security of systems software for devices - to the management applications for them, whether that be over the wire or over the air [OTA], and ensuring that we provide a secure environment for service providers to deliver their services to mobile subscribers."
In Latin America, customers that have the OTA technology include the Millicom group and Claro. G&D announced that its OTA platforms can support LTE, adding to the list of supported networks of GSM - including EDGE and GPRS - and UMTS.