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VeriSign embracing mobile services

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Apr 10, 20063 mins
Cellular NetworksDNSMusic

VeriSign is expanding beyond its roots as a security and DNS specialist to become a behind-the-scenes provider of mobile content services through a series of acquisitions completed in recent weeks.

VeriSign is betting that mobile content will grow in the United States and Europe, as it has boomed in Asia. While most of this growth will come from the consumer market, VeriSign executives foresee opportunities for companies to provide rich content to mobile employees across a variety of devices, including cell phones and handhelds.

“The big portals and the largest consumer brands and media companies are starting to embrace using the content-to-mobile channel,” says Jeff Treuhast, senior vice president of digital content services for VeriSign. “We expect to see a generous amount of new revenue for the media companies and the operating networks.”

VeriSign expects that as mobile-phone users get more comfortable with downloading ringtones and taking pictures, they will be ready to interact with enterprise applications over mobile devices.

“Individual wireless subscribers who have used these features of their phones will now be more comfortable with using that technology to interact with applications in business life,” Treuhast says. “The mobile-knowledge worker might use this technology to handle trouble tickets or applications like upgrading seats on an airplane.”

VeriSign sees itself as a provider of key pieces of the IP infrastructure required for mobile-content applications. That’s where its recent acquisitions of m-Qube and 3united Mobile Solutions fit in. Both companies help content providers develop, deliver and bill for mobile content, applications and messaging service. Together, they reach more than 600 million wireless subscribers in North America, Europe and Asia.

“Mobile messaging and mobile-content delivery is taking off, and VeriSign sees an opportunity to really get into the game,” says Tony Rizzo, research director for mobile technology at The 451 Group. “These acquisitions allow them to do a variety of multimedia transactions. The consumer sends a multimedia bit like a photo with an audio clip, and VeriSign gets a piece of the transaction.”

VeriSign also bought Kontiki, which provides peer-to-peer technology that speeds the delivery of IP broadcast services, such as VoIP.

“Kontiki has a peer-based delivery system for TV-quality video that media companies can use to go direct to consumers over the Internet and enterprises can use to transform the way they communicate with employees and business partners,” Treuhast says. “The system that Kontiki has built allows you to automate the process so that the latest presentation from the CEO is always on the user’s desktop. It gets pushed out to the machine.”

Analysts say it will be at least a year before enterprises start enabling their key applications to integrate with wireless devices and start using these devices for rich content, such as audio and video.

“It’s at least another 18 months until this becomes a viable market, but it will definitely happen,” Rizzo says. “Right now it’s all about the consumer dollars. Everyone is putting their first effort there.”

In addition, VeriSign bought mobile-billing services provider CallVision in January. CallVision provides T-Mobile, Bell Canada and other carriers with technology that supports electronic billing and customer self-service applications.