Apple's mobile payment system will be available in China starting Feb. 18 for Industrial and Commercial Bank of China customers, bank representatives said in social media posts on Tuesday.
The technology giant had previously said the system would launch in China in early 2016, making it Apple Pay's fifth country. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on ICBC's posts on the projected launch. The lender is set to be joined by a raft of peers: Apple's China website lists 19 Chinese lenders as official Apple Pay partners, and state media reported two other lenders will also go live with the service from Feb. 18.
Greater China is Apple's second-largest market by revenue, but the company faces an uphill battle to match that prowess quickly in mobile payments.
Apple Pay's beginnings have been less than auspicious in other markets, including skepticism from retailers in its home market. But in China, Apple Pay's issue will be how to compete with dominant and entrenched players, serving shoppers well used to paying for goods and services with their handsets.
China is the world's biggest smartphone market. By the end of 2015, 358 million people, more than the population of the United States, had already taken to paying by mobile phone, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.