A France-based firm that certifies handsets for Near Field Communication payment applications is betting heavily on the technology becoming the dominant mobile-payment standard.
Fime SA, which launched its NFC mobile-payment testing service in France in 1995, plans to open a lab in the U.S. within a year to provide EMV smart chip and NFC testing for handsets and other devices, Pascal Le Ray, the company's general manager, said in an interview.
Le Ray believes Fime will be among the first to offer NFC mobile-handset certification for all major card networks through a U.S. facility. The firm also operates NFC testing labs in Taiwan and Canada, and this month it opened its fourth such lab in Seoul, South Korea. Fime also is eyeing Japan as a site for one of its next NFC test labs, Le Ray says.
Each lab provides testing and certification services, working with mobile-device manufacturers and network operators to ensure NFC handsets are interoperable and comply with industry standards before release, the firm said in a press release.
Fime provides certification services for Visa Inc., MasterCard Worldwide, American Express Co. and Discover Financial Services, and the firm also is working with mobile-wallet consortium Isis to test NFC payment applications at its various labs, Le Ray says.
Fime's U.S. mobile-payments test lab will be somewhere in California, he says. "We want to be close to Google, Intel and other tech companies working on NFC,” he says.
Competition likely will heat up among various new testing and certification labs emerging in the U.S. as the 2015 broad liability-shift deadline for U.S. issuers, merchants and processors to adopt EMV nears, Le Ray predicts.
Though some observers doubt whether NFC ultimately will become the dominant standard for mobile payments in the U.S., it likely will win out over other proposed mobile-payment approaches, such as bar code technology, Le Ray says.
"There is no other mobile-payment technology as mature, as secure and as convenient" as NFC, he says, noting "a lot of initial problems have already been worked out in various pilots around the world," alluding to a broad test two years ago in Nice, France, funded in part by the French government.
Some U.S. merchants may resist adopting point-of-sale equipment necessary to accept NFC payments because of the cost, Le Ray acknowledges.
"The U.S. has a big gap because the market needs to go from magnetic stripe technology to the cutting edge, with NFC, but I'm certain that eventually they will adopt NFC as it becomes the global standard. It may not happen quickly, but it will happen," he says.