How Mobile Ticketing Works


Tickets are scanned at the gate.
Tickets are scanned at the gate.

by Dave Roos

Your favorite band is in town for its final reunion tour. The tickets are available online, but the concert is only two days away! In the past, if you wanted to get the tickets on time, you'd have to pay an exorbitant delivery fee, wait in a long line at will call or put your fate in the hands of a scalper.

Not any more. A new technology called mobile ticketing delivers tickets right to your cell phone. You don't even have to print them out. The tickets arrive as a text message with a special barcode. When you show up at the event, they'll scan the barcode, and you're in the door!

In this article, we'll run through the basics of how mobile ticketing works and explain some of the features and applications of this exciting new service.

Here's how to buy and use mobile tickets for an event:

1. Buy your ticket online and choose "mobile ticketing" as your delivery option.

2. Enter your cell phone number, mobile carrier and cell phone model.

3. After completing the transaction, you'll receive a text message on your phone. If your phone is MMS or WAP enabled (see "Can My Phone Receive Barcode Images?"), the message includes an image with a barcode. If your phone only accepts text messages, you'll receive a special alphanumeric code that can be manually entered at the event.

4. Do not delete the text message. Save it or leave it in your inbox. This message is now your ticket.

5. When you arrive at the event, open the text message and hand your phone to the ticket collectors at the gate. Since mobile ticketing is a relatively new technology, the venue might require that you enter through a specific gate or door that's equipped with the right barcode reader. If for some reason the barcode is unreadable or your phone doesn't accept images, they'll have to enter the barcode digits manually.

6. Some events will print out a paper ticket at the gate while others forgo the paper version entirely.

Now let's read more about the useful features and applications of mobile ticketing.

Features and Applications of Mobile Ticketing

Baseball tickets on your phone.
Baseball tickets on your phone.

Mobile tickets have the potential to be used wherever regular tickets are sold today. Many modern sports and concert facilities already use barcode readers to process paper tickets, so the technology is already in place. The reach of mobile ticketing could extend to sporting events, concerts, movie theaters, nightclubs, transportation, conferences and more.

Guns N' Roses played the first official "ticketless" concert in London in June 2006 and former Black Eyed Peas frontwoman Fergie is selling absolutely no paper tickets to her 2007 Verizon VIP Tour.

Tickets.com has launched a new service called Tickets@Phone to deliver tickets to cell phones. Two baseball teams -- the Washington Nationals and the Oakland A's -- currently use the Tickets@Phone service to offer mobile ticketing as one of their delivery options.

The greatest advantage of mobile ticketing is convenience. If you have a WAP-enabled phone, you can buy the tickets from your phone, store them on your phone and swipe your phone at the event. There's no waiting in line at the movies or the game, not even to pick up your pre-ordered ticket at will call. Just walk straight to the gate.

Mobile ticketing can also help increase revenue for concert promoters and ticket vendors. They can sell tickets right up to the minute that an event starts, because delivery to your phone is instantaneous. They can even take advantage of "no-shows," selling unclaimed tickets at the last second to people who are waiting for seats.

Mobile ticketing reduces processing costs on both sides. The vendor doesn't pay for printing and delivery fees, and neither does the customer. Plus, less paper is better for the environment.

Mobile tickets are harder to scalp than paper tickets, and extra security measures can be added to make fraud or theft nearly impossible. The ticket can be "locked" to the customer's cell phone, so the message can't be forwarded. The customer's name and even photo can be added to the ticket for confirmation at the door.

Even if a mobile ticket is lost or the text message is accidentally deleted, it's easy for the vendor to cancel the old ticket and resend a replacement.

For now, mobile ticketing is just getting started, but it promises to be an exciting new convenience for cell phone users everywhere.

Read on to learn even more about mobile ticketing and the technology that makes it work.

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