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In today's tough economic environment, municipalities and their residents feel the negative impacts of financial hardships. As municipalities across the United States continue to deliver essential utility services, such as electricity, gas and water, they rely on timely receipt of payments to balance their budgets. For residents, electricity, gas and water are fundamental human needs and their cutoffs naturally result in the decline of quality of life. The human dependency on essential utility services has led to innovative solutions that help consumers to effectively manage personal finances through last minute payments, even in these difficult economic times.

North America's largest bill payment processors, such as TIO Networks, have developed mobile payment solutions that can be customized for last-minute payments of municipal utility services and made available to tech-savvy consumers for free download. Consumers can now enjoy the convenience of secure bill payments on the go, anytime and anywhere, with Visa, MasterCard or through their bank accounts. Mobile bill payment applications can be tailored to ethnically diverse consumer demographics with user-friendly and multilingual interface for real-time access to personal account balances and instant payments. Utilizing mobile bill payment applications, consumers can prioritize their payment needs, hold onto their valuable cash as long as necessary, and avoid late fees as well as the disruption of services. "In 2010, consumers saved billions in late fees, and this number is expected to increase in future years" (Source: Javelin Strategy & Research).

The introduction of mobile payment coincides with high adoption rates of digital tools and technology, particularly among segments of the population born after the 1960s. Generation Y (individuals born in the mid-1980's and later) leads the adoption curve, as it is least likely to remember the time without a mobile phone (Source: Forrester Research's 2010 Annual Survey of American Technology Adoption). Regardless of minor generational differences on the adoption rate, smartphones are becoming ubiquitous, and a necessity rather than just a convenience. According to Hugues de la Vergne, principal research analyst at the technology research company Gartner, "as more consumers adopt smartphones, the market will shift from the more technically astute tech savants toward less tech-savvy comfortable conformists" (Source: mobilecommercedaily.com).

The latest technological breakthroughs in mobile payment are bound to further revolutionize our way of life, as more consumers embrace new wireless solutions to increase productivity and to meet the essential demands of today's fast paced lifestyles. In its November 2010 report, the Aite Group forecasts that U.S. mobile bill payments will reach US$214 billion in gross dollar volume in 2015, up from US$16 billion in 2010. This growth projection is a testament to consumers' flexibility and willingness to adopt a new technology (Source: Aite Group).

Javelin Strategy & Research predicts that the number of US households using expedited payments will continue to increase both under optimistic and pessimistic scenarios. This phenomenon reflects a significant change in consumer behaviors, as more households make expedited payments through various channels, including mobile, to pay for municipal utility services. With the gradual entry of mobile payment into consumers' daily lexicon, municipalities and their residents emerge as winners in the constant struggle over managing finances.

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