Facebook is preparing to enter the mobile payments race, according to a report by the Financial Times.
The social network has filed for regulatory approval in Ireland, and is “only weeks away” from gaining authorisation to build a mobile payments system, according to the newspaper.
Sources involved in the process said this would allow Facebook users to upload money, pay for services and exchange it with other users.
Authorisation from the Central Bank of Ireland would start the ball rolling for Facebook to offer this service.
The FT also said that Facebook has spoken to three London-based mobile payments startups – Transfer Wise, Azimo and Moni Technologies – about the possibility of partnerships.
Facebook apparently offered Azimo $10m to recruit one of their co-founders, to become their director of business development.
The mobile payments push is said to be led by Facebook’s vice president of platform partnerships, Sean Ryan.
Last year, Facebook made $2.1bn from taking a cut, of up to 30%, from in-game purchases on their platform, according to SEC documents.
This accounts for 10% of their revenue, and is just a small taste of the kind of money that commission from a mobile payments service could bring.
The FT quotes someone close to the social network’s strategy, who said: “Facebook wants to become a utility in the developing world, and remittances are a gateway drug to financial inclusion.”
A Wall Street Journal report at the beginning of the year said that Apple were looking to further their mobile payments service, by expanding it beyond iTunes Store purchases.
This move would allow users with an iTunes account to buy services, via their mobile, from third party retailers.
Considering Apple have a rumoured 600m credit cards on file – compared to PayPal’s 137m – this would immediately make the tech giant one of the biggest players in the industry.
Weeks after the story, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that an interest in mobile payments was “one of the thinkings behind” their Touch ID fingerprint authentication.
Google also recently reiterated their commitment to Google Wallet, which had a disappointing roll-out, amid privacy and security concerns.
UK banks have also collaborated on a mobile payments service called Paym, which would let people send money to each other using only a phone number.
The mobile payments industry is expected to grow by 35% each year, according to a report by research firm Gartner.
The same report expected it to be a $721bn market, with over 450m users, by 2017.