With a goal of speeding up delivery of Near Field Communication-enabled handsets, China Mobile Limited has purchased EMV chip-card testing capabilities from Fime, as well as received a license to begin operating a new, fourth-generation wireless network.

In addition to acquiring contactless, analogue test-bench tools, China Mobile Limited will receive consultation and management support from the French EMV and NFC chip certifier. Fime will also carry out precertification of vendor handset testing in China, the companies state in a Dec. 2 press release.

Fime says it will provide the test equipment to China Mobile, with further support and precertification testing taking place at its Asia laboratory.

In addition to the EMV testing, Fime will consult with China Mobile on NFC handset certification to speed up the testing cycle and overall time to market, Fime says.

"This is an extremely exciting project for us," Jason Lai, business development manager at FIME Asia, states in a press release.

Fime recently approved its EMV contactless analogue test bench for EMV Contactless Specification Level 1, Lai says.

"The selection of this tool by one of the largest mobile telecommunications companies globally demonstrates Fime’s credentials in the marketplace," Lai adds.

Fime says its support for pre-certification testing and the expansion of China Mobile’s in-house testing capabilities will enable the leading mobile services provider to accelerate the distribution of NFC handsets and its plans for further Asian and European expansion.

With nearly 760 million subscribers and a market capitalization of more than $216 billion, state-run China Mobile is the largest wireless carrier in the world. On Dec. 4, the company and two smaller carriers received licenses from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to start commercial service on the largest fourth-generation wireless network — a move designed to attract smartphone users seeking faster wireless download speeds.

Starting services on its 4G network may help China Mobile add users by winning over handset makers that hadn’t previously supported its homegrown 3G standard, including Apple Inc. The high-speed network was scheduled to reach 100 cities covering 500 million people this year, making it the world’s largest.

“China Mobile has already developed an extensive network of 4G base stations across China, so with the launch of 4G service they can aggressively capture the 4G demand,” Ricky Lai, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Guotai Junan International Holdings Ltd., said by phone. “China Mobile would like to poach high-end subscribers through new offerings like the iPhone.”

Rainie Lei, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for China Mobile, said the company will promote the construction and full operation of the LTE network along with its state-owned parent. She declined to say when services would start.

China Mobile’s 3G network runs a homegrown standard called TD-SCDMA, which has left it unable to offer popular handsets such as the iPhone. Apple is close to agreeing to a distribution deal with China Mobile, a person with knowledge of the matter said in September. The carrier said in 2011 that Apple agreed to make an iPhone for its customers once it shifted to 4G.

The rollout of 4G comes at a price for China Mobile, as the carrier in March said it would contribute to a 49% increase in capital spending to 190.2 billion yuan (US$31.22 billion) this year. Spending on the 4G network accounted for 52% of the total, or about 99 billion yuan (US$16.25 billion), the carrier said. As a result, the company this year is projected to report its first decline in annual profit since 1999.

Fime, an independent consulting and testing service, focuses on end-to-end transaction solutions and mobile services in order to advance market security and interoperability.

Fime ensures the compliance of mobile devices and chip-based applications to industry standards. Its international team works with manufacturers, banks and authorities within the EMV payments, mobile NFC, telecom, transport and e-identity sectors.

Last month, Fime announced it had set up a testing laboratory for Discover’s D-PAS payment technology. Fime conducts similar testing for Visa and the Isis Mobile Wallet.

Its other partners include ACT Canada, American Express, ANSSI, Calypso Networks Association, eftpos, EMVCo, First Data, French National RFID Centre, GIXEL, GlobalPlatform, GSMA, Global Certification Forum, Interac, International Civil Aviation Organization, JCB, MasterCard, NFC Forum, OSCar Consortium and Smart Card Alliance.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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