What is Direct Carrier Billing?

Carrier billing enables consumers to charge purchases to their phone bill.

Direct carrier billing (“DCB”) is an online payment method. It allows users to make purchases by charging payments to their mobile phone bill. This payment method is available to all smartphone and feature phone owners. The only thing needed to confirm payments is a device with a SIM card.

Works on any platform: computers, phones, tablets, smart TV-s

Consumers can use carrier billing to buy content on any digital platform. For example, you can buy a music streaming subscription on a tablet device by confirming the payment on your phone. Fortumo's direct carrier billing products work on any computer, tablet, smartphone, feature phone and smart TV.

Simplest checkout experience for online environments

Direct carrier billing is different from other mobile payment methods (mobile wallets, NFC solutions) because it does not rely on banking infrastructure. While the other payment methods are convenient for point-of-sale purchases, direct carrier billing provides the best purchasing experience in online environments.

Why is direct carrier billing popular?

There are 5 times more mobile phones than credit cards.

Simple checkout flows mean up to 10x better conversion rates.

Carrier billing is secure: no personal data gets transmitted.

For merchants, direct carrier billing provides higher payment coverage than traditional bank-based payment methods such as credit cards. This is especially important emerging markets where very few people have access to a bank card: for example in India just 20% of all smartphone owners also own a credit card. Globally, there are 5 mobile phone owners per each credit card owner. In mature markets with a high ownership of bank cards, its convenience and fear of fraud with card-based payments has made carrier billing a popular payment method.

Better conversion rates

Merchants also integrate carrier billing because of improved conversion rates. With direct carrier billing, the only information requested from the user is their mobile phone number. This is in heavy contrast with card-based payments with which users need to share their name, card number, home address etc. Merchants using both payment methods report up to 10x better conversion rates with direct carrier billing compared to credit cards.

Smooth costumer experience

For consumers, carrier billing provides the most convenient payment experience online. There is no need to sign up for any additional accounts, log in to an existing e-wallet or bank account or fill out forms regarding bank card details. Payments are completed in a matter of seconds and are especially convenient on mobile devices where filling out long forms is tiresome. For a global overview of user spending behaviour, check out our interactive map.


Consumers also prefer carrier billing because it is secure. No personal data is transmitted during the payment process which means there is no need to worry about private information being stolen for making fraudulent purchases. Unlike card-based payment methods, direct carrier billing always requires the user to confirm the payment on a physical device. This makes card-not-present type fraud impossible. You can read more about fraud prevention with carrier billing from our blog post.

Direct carrier billing is often the only way for users to purchase online content and services

Mobile operators provide direct carrier billing in order to increase revenue from their existing network infrastructure and subscriber base. While revenue from traditional business lines (calls, messaging) is declining, spending through carrier billing is growing. This is especially important for mobile operators located in markets where card-based payments are not popular. In these markets, direct carrier billing is often the only way for users to purchase online content and services. Digital content and physical services merchants are increasingly relying on carrier billing because a growing amount of their users are located in these markets. You can read more about how carriers are becoming the leading payment processors in these markets from our white paper.

Fortumo Cross-Platform Payments

How does direct carrier billing work?

One integration with Fortumo connects merchants to over 350 carriers.

Fortumo mediates the transaction between the merchant, consumer & carrier.

One global, monthly net payout makes reconciliation simple for merchants.

With Fortumo, merchants can collect payments using direct carrier billing in 94 markets through 350 mobile operators. In order to do so, they need to create an account with Fortumo, set up a payment service to define what and for how much they want to sell and then integrate Fortumo’s payment button inside of their service.

When a user clicks the payment button, they are shown a payment window, which is fully hosted and localized by Fortumo. The user enters their phone number and confirms which service they wish to purchase. You can try for yourself how the purchasing experience looks from a consumer perspective:

Try Demo Payment

Once a user confirms their purchase, their information is sent back to Fortumo. Fortumo checks with its mobile operator partners which network the end-user is is subscribed to and whether they have enough money on their account to make the purchase. Fortumo then notifies the carrier to deduct the money from the account and asks the merchant to give the user the services they paid for. Direct carrier billing works for both prepaid and postpaid mobile customers: charges are either deducted from a prepaid SIM card or added to the user’s monthly invoice.

Worry free money transfers

At the end of each month, carriers transfer Fortumo the money that has been paid by all the consumers globally. Fortumo then wires the money to the merchants’ bank accounts. Fortumo makes reconciliation for merchants very simple: we pay all the required taxes in all markets globally which means that the money received by merchants is a net sum. This means merchants don’t need to worry about any additional fees or taxation.

True direct carrier billing

For merchants, it is important to distinguish the technical and commercial differences between modern direct carrier billing and legacy mobile payment solutions. Many regional and local carrier billing providers claim to provide direct carrier billing because the payments are directly charged to the user’s phone bill. But this is done with any mobile payment transaction and has no actual value or meaning. True direct carrier billing means that no legacy Premium SMS technologies are used and the carrier billing provider has a direct contract with the mobile operator.

Ready made solution

A growing amount of mobile operators and digital content merchants are choosing to integrate direct carrier billing through partners like Fortumo instead of doing it on their own. This is because managing dozens or hundreds of relationships consumes significant time and money. Fortumo’s role and expertise in the direct carrier billing ecosystem is to enable both sides to launch payments rapidly. Fortumo takes care of the integration, business development and operational support activities such as end-user support and merchant onboarding.

Where is direct carrier billing used?

Fortumo provides direct carrier billing to a wide variety of merchants. This includes app stores (Google Play), digital media providers (Spotify, Sony, HOOQ, Gaana), gaming companies (EA Mobile, Gameloft, Kinguin, Rovio). and social networks (Facebook, Badoo). Click here to see a full overview of segments where Fortumo provides direct carrier billing. To date, more than 150,000 merchants have signed up to use Fortumo for collecting payments for digital content, games and physical services.

Fortumo Cross-Platform Payments

What are the fees related to direct carrier billing?

Average payouts to merchants range in between 70%-80%.

Each mobile operator has put in place their own commercial terms for direct carrier billing. This means direct carrier billing revenue shares are fragmented across the world and even inside each country. Generally, direct carrier billing offers lower payout rates than card-based payments which is in turn compensated by the significant increase in payment reach and higher conversion rates. The global average payouts to merchants from direct carrier billing range in between 70%-80% and are usually also dependent on the type of content or services that are monetized. You can see the full overview of commercial terms of carrier billing when you sign up with Fortumo and visit our Revenue Shares page.

How to get started with carrier billing?

Getting started with Fortumo is simple. You can register a free account and there are no sign-up fees, monthly fees or recurring costs. Both individuals and companies can use Fortumo’s platform. Any type of digital content can be monetized through Fortumo except for gambling, adult and donation services.
You can set up your account here and integration documentation for Fortumo’s products can be found in our Developers Portal. We recommend you first read through our Getting Started guide.