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DCB spend for digital goods to exceed $74bn in 2026; dominated by digital games

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The value of end-user spend on digital goods using direct carrier billing (DCB) will exceed $74bn by 2026; up from $54bn in 2022. This growth of more than 37% reflects the increasing relevance of carrier billing as an option for digital commerce spend. Direct carrier billing involves users charging payments for digital and physical goods to their mobile phone bill.

The new research, Carrier Billing: Opportunities, Challenges & Market Forecasts 2022-2026, found that gaming spend will account for just over 50% of digital goods spend via carrier billing in 2026. This dominance will be driven by accelerating monetisation strategies, including 5G cloud gaming and gaming subscription models. Carrier billing vendors must prioritise partnerships with leading gaming platforms, including emerging cloud gaming players, in order to best serve this market.

Digital goods – the $11bn carrier billing opportunity

The research found that operator-billed carrier billing revenue attributable to digital goods will reach $11 billion globally in 2026; up from $8 billion in 2022. The research identified the high costs per transaction as a limiting factor for carrier billing payments versus card and digital wallet payments, but identified operator reach as being a compelling factor.

Research co-author Nick Maynard explains: “In the face of a rapidly accelerating digital transformation within payments, operators can be in the driver’s seat for reaching potential users, given their access to existing subscribers. Leveraging this subscription base is critical to accessing this potential revenue source.”

Remote physical goods payments – the high-growth opportunity

The research found that physical goods spend is rising much faster in carrier billing than for digital goods; at a rate of 270% over the next 4 years. While this market is growing from a lower user base, it does represent a significant new opportunity, with spend set to exceed $13 billion globally in 2026. The report recommends targeting cross-border eCommerce vendors for partnerships, given their need to quickly onboard localised payment methods.

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