A new report from Juniper Research finds that the use of unique mobile identifier services, which provide identity verification through SIMs, will generate over $7 billion for mobile operators in 2024. This is up from an expected $859 million in 2019; — a growth of over 800%.

The research group notes that, particularly, in emerging economies with limited government identity provision, mobile phones will become the primary source of identity for over three billion people by 2024. These will be used heavily because they are simpler to scale than card-based identity, particularly in areas of Southeast Asia and Africa, where pre-existing government-issued identities are less common.

Juniper anticipates that other digital players will provide apps on top of this framework, with over 600 million discrete third-party identity apps using the operator-provided functions. These third-parties will typically monetize API calls from identity requestors, cutting operators out of this space, but the latter could potentially leverage their position in the future to gain further revenue.

Smartphone vendors will also capitalize on digital identity via the production of devices with advanced functionality, including biometric identity capabilities, according to Juniper. The research group expects over five billion smartphones globally to have some form of biometric in 2024, nearly 90% of all smartphones. However, the research warns that several services will still need traditional documentation to onboard users initially. As a result, Juniper forecasts that traditional forms of identification will not be entirely displaced by mobile forms in the near future. 

“Service onboarding is still an opportunity for fraud, despite advances in biometric technology,” says research author James Moar. “Many services require a tie back to an existing form of ID, which typically means analogue identification. As a result, facial recognition will become key as it can bridge the digital-physical gap more easily than other biometrics.”