NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest mobile operator, and Mastercard today announced a partnership that will soon allow users of DoCoMo’s iD mobile payment system to take advantage of MasterCard’s PayPass solution outside of Japan.

The service is expected to go live in the first half of fiscal 2013, which begins in April of next year. It will be opt-in for DoCoMo customers and will require compatible mobile phones. The carrier has largely relied on the FeliCa technology for its iD system, but MasterCard’s system is built on the Type AB Near Field Communication (NFC) standard.

At launch, the DoCoMo Xperia AX SO-01E and the NEXT series Aquos phone Zeta SH-02E handsets will support the feature.

“DOCOMO launched the iD-branded mobile credit payments in Japan in 2005. With 17m users, we have the most number of subscribers using the Osaifu-Keitai (mobile phones with wallet functions). This collaboration with MasterCard will enable our iD users to make payments at PayPass merchants worldwide and increase the usage of mobile payment solutions,” Masaki Yoshikawa, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of DOCOMO’s Credit Card Business Division, said in a statement announcing the partnership.

Philip Yen, MasterCard Worldwide’s group head for Emerging Payments in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, told The Next Web in an interview:

“Mastercard’s quite excited about this particular collaboration and partnership. We recognize that DoCoMo has been an industry leader for quite some time, being the first to introduce IMO and other innovations and Docomo chooses their partners very carefully and so we’re quite proud that they decided to partner with us.”

This latest partnership comes as part of MasterCard’s active pursuit of expanding payments to mobile devices. Over 70 phone models currently support PayPass. Yen believes adoption of mobile payments is in an “upward spiral” that should see both new handsets and new merchants sign on to the system.

“We see more NFC handsets coming into play, we see operators quite eager to increase the utility of their payments, we see banks wanting to serve their customers better by offering multiple forms of payments, and we see consumers finding it really cool and generally very convenient to use phones for payment. Overall, there are a lot of very positive trends,” he said.

MasterCard now has over 500,000 merchant locations participating in its PayPass program. According to the company, in Australia, 1 in 10 transactions at a point of sale under A$100 are now made with contactless payments, and Canada has similar adoption rates. In addition to DoCoMo, MasterCard has linked up with several other global carriers for digital payments. In August, the company launched an NFC payment app with Singapore’s Starhub. It has also teamed up with Everything Everywhere in the UK and Deutsche Telekom in Europe.

Image credit: Håkan Dahlström Photography