To exceed $25 billion by 2018, rising to 4% of total international remittance by value
A new study from Juniper Research has found that international remittances, including airtime top ups via mobile phones, will exceed $25 billion by 2018, up 67% from an estimated $15 billion in 2015.
The research found a significant upsurge in international remittance activity in the past two years with a number of cross-border mobile remittance services being deployed. For example, PayPal-owned Xoom announced in April 2016 that it will expand its services to 13 new recipient countries.
It found that international mobile money transfers are forecast to grow in frequency in all regions as users become more accustomed to using the service. Higher value transactions are also forecast, going forward.
The new research noted that the international remittance market is increasingly being disrupted by a proliferation of smaller, agile ‘pure-play’ digital providers such as PayPal Xoom and WorldRemit.
“Previously dominated by Western Union and MoneyGram, the international mobile money transfer is becoming increasingly competitive with these new mobile remittance providers offering markedly lower prices than the established players,” noted research author Nitin Bhas. He pointed out that London-based start up TransferWise offers more of a direct threat to the traditional players, as it offers extremely low (0.5%) transaction fees for higher value ($295+) transactions.
Additionally, the research found that mobile international remittances will also have an impact on remittances via informal channels, ie, the ‘grey remittance’ market composed primarily of cash, by offering a lower cost alternative to traditional remittance services.
The research also found that while international cash remittance growth had slowed, transaction volumes have surged in the airtime top-up market, where service providers are not required to obtain money licences. The simplicity of airtime and the need to facilitate basic person to person money flow means that these still represent the initial deployments in many markets. It also enables the sender of the remittance to control precisely what that remittance will be used for.
However, the international airtime transfer segment represented very high commission rates when compared to international remittance. Nevertheless, Juniper forecasts that the total number of mobile international airtime top up transactions will approach half a billion for the first time in 2018.