Mobile ticketing

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Mobile ticketing is the process whereby customers can order, pay for, obtain and/or validate tickets using mobile phones or other mobile handsets. Mobile tickets reduce the production and distribution costs connected with traditional paper-based ticketing channels and increase customer convenience by providing new and simple ways to purchase tickets.

The term can also refer to a method by which law enforcement agencies use in-car computers to create traffic citations in the field, then print a hard copy for the offender. The advantages of mobile ticketing include reduced paperwork time, reduced chance of tickets being made void by human error and immediate accessibility of citation information by other departments.


  • Airline check-in[1]
  • Airline ticketing
  • Tourist Attraction Ticketing
  • Zoo Ticketing
  • Museum Ticketing
  • Cinema ticketing
  • Railway & Bus ticketing[2]
  • Concert/Event ticketing
  • Consumer voucher distribution
  • Mass transit
  • Trade shows
  • Bus ticket

Advantage of mobile ticketing

  • Improved consumer convenience
  • Increased revenue by increasing accessibility of tickets
  • Reduced infrastructure costs (scanners retail at 30 times the cost of 1d scanners)
  • Reduced ticket printing/mailing cost
  • Ability to enforce no resale conditions and engage in price discrimination


  • Many company phones block premium SMS messages (not an issue where payment is linked to a credit card)
  • Foreign subscription phones do not work in connection with premium SMS messages
  • Some people do not own a mobile phone, so for this and the above reasons other payment methods must be available
  • If the phone battery runs out, the mobile ticket is made unusable
  • Forgery (risk varies by mobile solution provider)


Mobile purchase

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) 2007 announced a global standard that paves the way for global mobile phone check-in using two-dimensional (2D) bar codes. The industry has set a deadline of the end of 2010 to implement 100% bar coded boarding passes (BCBP). Upon full implementation, BCBP is said to be able to save the industry over US $500 million annually.[3]

Mobile tickets can be purchased in a variety of ways including online, via text messaging or over the phone from a voice call, WAP page, or a secure mobile application. For repeated purchases such as daily train tickets, mobile applications or text messaging can be used. The drawbacks to text message purchasing is that either the vendor loses 40% of their revenue to the mobile operator, or any credit card purchase has to be achieved through a web page as the SMS has no security suitable for credit card entry, and very few ticket choices can be easily remembered and entered by SMS.

SMS purchase

There are two distinct forms of SMS purchases: so-called 'premium SMS' purchases charged to the mobile operator bill; and SMS purchases charged to a payment card. Mobile ticket purchases are primarily user-initiated messages whereby a keyword is sent to a short code service number (e.g. GV for a single adult ticket in Gothenburg, Sweden or GN as a night-tariff ticket). A return message is sent containing the mobile ticket as either an MMS message, a URL leading to a 2D barcode, or as plain text with the ticket information.

With premium SMS the price of the ticket can be added to the users mobile phone bill or debited from their pre-paid service using SMS billing. The main business limitation is that when premium SMS is used for billing, around 20-40% of the transaction value is retained by the mobile operator and sms aggregator, which is not viable when the ticket has a conventional profit margin. Payments charged to payment cards require an initial registration to associate the user's mobile phone number to their credit card, but have a far more favorable fee structure for service providers.

Online purchase

Online purchase is still an option for mobile tickets, allowing the user to set up an account and choosing payment options etc.


Delivery of tickets to mobile phones can be done in a variety of ways:

  • Text messaging (SMS) - visual inspection or OCR
  • Text messaging with WAP Push - visual inspection or OCR
  • Picture messaging (SMS, EMS, WAP Push and MMS) - usually uses a barcode
  • Dedicated Mobile application - which can store and render barcodes delivered via SMS, GPRS, Bluetooth, IRDA or RFID. Barcodes rendered on the device by a dedicated application have the advantage of being full screen without clutter, meaning faster and more successful scanning. A dedicated mobile application can also help the user to organise and sort their tickets better than when an SMS or MMS inbox is full of similar tickets, which is especially useful for transport tickets.
  • Device RFID - This is the method proposed under the Near Field Communication (NFC) specification but not yet in general use, except of Japanese Osaifu-Keitai.

Southend United Football Club is currently the only team in the UK to have a mobile ticketing facility offered to fans.

Very few phones outside Japan have RFID/NFC tags and so this method of delivery is largely unsupported. Picture messaging is supported by almost all phones and is generally the delivery method of choice. It usually requires the sender to know the phone model in advance so that the picture is rendered at the correct resolution. Text-only messaging is supported by all mobile phones and is the simplest method of delivery.


Visually validated mobile tickets do not require a scan device. Most forms of mobile tickets require some form of device to read the ticket from the user's device. Picture-based messages require a laser scanner (for 1-dimensional/linear barcodes) or camera based imager (for 2-dimensional barcodes) to photograph the message and decode it into a ticket ID. Text-based codes use OCR software for mTicket. Near Field Communication devices scan using an RFID reader.

Each of the above methods has its specific benefits and drawbacks. Optically reading the display of a cell phone is heavily influenced by the quality of the display (resolution, size of pixels, reflections). RFID is only supported by a very few phones yet.


Visually validated mobile tickets are validated without connection to a back office system. Other forms of mobile ticket systems contact a server that is able to verify the ticket and record that it has been used.

New systems that make use of encryption of the data inside the barcode enable off-line scanning and validation, which is especially important if users are purchasing tickets immediately prior to use, and the portable venue or on-vehicle scanning devices cannot always have a connection to the live ticket database. (Many transport ticketing systems, such as the London Oyster card travel system and the M-PhaTic system of the Swedish state railways SJ are designed so that scanners can operate as disconnected islands when connectivity to central systems is lost.)

See also


  1. "Finnair to introduce the world's easiest check-in -- with a text message". Finnair Group. Retrieved Sep 2004. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Mobile Ticketing". VR. Retrieved 29 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>