The number of transactions completed using mobile handsets will reach 10 billion annually by 2018, according to a report by Juniper Research. The figure will represent at total growth of over 330 per cent from 3 billion in the four year period from 2014.

The company's Mobile Contactless Payments: NFC, iWallet & Host Card Emulation 2014-2018 report suggests that Host Card Emulation (HCE), which uses an app instead of a secure element for near field communication (NFC) payments, and the launch of Apple's iWallet, will prove significant factors in the growth of mobile contactless payments.

The iWallet has yet to be officially confirmed by Apple, but the company has filed a patent for a means of secure contactless payment and the Juniper report notes that the addition of such a feature to the iPhone looks increasingly likely.

Any such move by Apple would help to push the technology into the mainstream by increasing consumer awareness. Meanwhile, recent decisions by Visa and MasterCard to endorse HCE will help to drive its uptake also.

Mobile operators lose out

Despite the positive outlook for mobile contactless payment technology, report author Dr Windsor Holden warned network operators that they would lose out. Holden suggests that HCE technology will allow banks to roll-out their own contactless payment services using apps rather than having to partner with mobile providers.

"With the emergence of HCE, the operator role at the heart of the NFC value chain is no longer sacrosanct," explained Holden. "Banks can now go it alone and as a result the scale of the operator opportunity is significantly diminished."