NFC payments already a $500 million business in Russia?

With no iPhone 5 support and multiple competing variants, mobile payments may be having an evolutionary emergence toward what many expect will be a revolutionary disruption.

But, already, NFC helped process 4.5 billion rubles’ worth ($138 million) of mobile payments in Russia in the first six months of the year, according to one facilitator, I-Free.

The company projects that rising to between 15 billion ($460 million) and 18 billion rubles ($553 million) by year’s end, and up to 35 billion rubles ($1 billion) through 2013.

But I-Free’s Svetlana Kostochka tells even this growth is being held back by lack of NFC-enabled smartphones.

“Equipment manufacturers are in no hurry to offer devices with NFC, because they do not believe they will be in demand because of the few services. As a result, the market is not growing as fast as it could.”

US NFC payments were forecast to hit $1.1 billion in 2012 by In-Stat. Either Russia is way ahead of the US in mobile payments, or something isn’t lining up between that forecast and I-Free’s numbers. The difference may be that “NFC payments” is not confined to “mobile payments”.

East-West News: “The world’s largest payment systems, including Visa and MasterCard, are providing incentives to their Russian partners to adopt NFC through their proprietary payWave and PayPass platforms.

“Eleven sizable Russian banks already issue plastic cards with an NFC module, MasterCard says, adding that ‘a few thousand’ POS’s supporting NFC technology have been installed at Russian mobile outlets, cafés, malls, gas stations, and transportation systems, predominantly in Moscow and St. Petersburg.”

NFC payment forecasts are plentiful

Juniper reckons on NFC processing $180 billion in the US and western Europe in 2017.