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Mobile ticketing is the process whereby customers order, pay for, obtain and/or validate tickets using mobile phones. A mobile ticket contains a unique ticket verification (QR code). Mobile tickets reduce the production and distribution costs associated with paper-based ticketing for operators by transferring the burden to the customer, who is required to contribute the cost of the physical device (smartphone) and internet access to the process. As a result of these prerequisites, and in contrast to paper-based systems, mobile ticketing does not follow the principles of universal design.
Mobile tickets should not be confused with E-Tickets (electronic tickets), which have been used by airlines since 1994. They can be sent by e-mail, printed and shown at the check-in desk at the airport to obtain a boarding pass.
Many train and bus operators in Europe have created phone apps in which mobile tickets can be bought and stored. These include but are not limited to SJ, DSB, NSB, DB and selected local transit authorities. Mobile tickets may lessen the potential for scalping and fraud.
The first mobile ticketing deployment for a public transport operator in the UK was for Chiltern Railways in 2007. The first transit agency in the US to deploy mobile ticketing was in 2012 with Boston's MBTA and the first agency in Australia was in 2017 with Adelaide Metro.
Philips and Sony developed near field communication (NFC) in 2002. It is built on the same basis as common contactless smartcards. Philips published an early paper on NFC in 2004. In 2004, the NFC Forum was established. NFC incorporated in a mobile phone allows novel contactless applications, mobile ticketing being one of them. Mobile tickets can be purchased via internet and downloaded in a few seconds to the mobile phone, be it in an sms with a 2-D barcode or to the connected NFC chip. In case of NFC at entrance, the phone is touched to the scanning device (in fact it makes contact within 10 cm). The GSM Association, GSMA, published a whitepaper on M-Ticketing in 2011. It describes extensively the use and advantages of M-Ticketing, principally the use of NFC technology. They state that NFC is the best technology but "it is expected however that M-Ticketing services using SMS and Bar Code implementations will be prevalent until the point that a critical mass of NFC enabled handsets is available."
In 2019, a mobile-only ticketing system developed by Ticketmaster was installed in stadiums across the NFL, based on the Presence platform developed by the company in 2017. The platform is an access control system and marketing tool involving personalized digital tickets and tracking software. The mobile-only version of the system, SafeTix, links the tickets to individual smartphones and was adopted by the vast majority of NFL franchises due to Ticketmaster's position as primary ticket partner of the league. The Buffalo Bills received praise from several organizations, including the NAACP, for not adopting mobile-only ticketing, while fans across the league experienced delays and refusals of entry due to a range of issues with the system.
For the 2021 season, the NFL is mandating mobile-only ticketing across the league. The mandate removes the option to issue paper tickets for the few franchises that had not enforced a mobile-only policy, and codifies the requirement for every fan to own a smartphone and grant access to it in order to attend a game.