Research In Motion says its new BlackBerry smartphones are being tested by 50 phone carriers around the world, another step towards their release next year.

The carriers, which RIM did not name, are checking to ensure the new devices are compatible with their systems, the Waterloo, Ont.,-based company said Wednesday.

President and CEO Thorsten Heins issued a statement calling the move a "key step" for the BlackBerry phones and BlackBerry 10 operating system.

"This process will continue in the coming months as more carriers around the world formally evaluate the devices and our brand new software," Heins said.

"Our respective teams are now engaged on the technical and commercial preparation of the launch of BlackBerry 10 and the lab entry is an important milestone in that context."

No specific release date set

RIM aims to have the new devices on store shelves in the first quarter of 2013, but hasn't announced a specific date for the release. A touch screen version of the smartphone is expected to debut first, followed by a keypad variation.

Earlier this month, the company sent out an invitation to some of Ottawa's key government officials for a sneak peek at the new BlackBerry operating system. The event is designed to drum up excitement on Parliament Hill where the BlackBerry remains the dominant phone.

RIM has been in a rescue mode as sales of its BlackBerry smartphones continue to decline in North America and Europe, two of its key markets.

The newest line of BlackBerry phones has faced numerous setbacks since their initial announcement, including two major delays in their release.

The company has shifted its focus to other countries, where smartphones are still growing in popularity, to help keep sales momentum more steady in the meantime.

RIM shares closed up 3.68 per cent, or 28 cents, at $7.88 Wednesday.