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VeriSign joins the wireless BREW crew

The company continues an onslaught into the wireless world, inking a deal with Qualcomm to ensure that software people might download on their cell phones will get there safely.

VeriSign continued an onslaught into the wireless world Tuesday, inking a deal with Qualcomm to ensure that music files, games and other software people might download on their cell phones will get there safely.

The deal will place VeriSign's programming into Qualcomm's software called BREW, or binary runtime environment for wireless, which Qualcomm introduced in January. BREW is one of several operating systems being proposed for the next generation of handsets. Its chief rival comes from Sun Microsystems, which has shrunk its own Java program into a system called J2ME; that system is already embedded in some phones in the United States and Asia.

Like Sun's J2ME, BREW will let handset customers download items directly to phones. At a BREW developers conference set to begin this week, Qualcomm said it will demonstrate applications BREW allows, such as downloading MP3 music files and 3D characters to handsets.

VeriSign's software will give each of the applications meant to be downloaded an individual identification mark, ensuring that the software is digitally authenticated, according to the company.

Telephone service providers are counting on customers playing games or listening to music on cell phones as a way to make up for lost revenue as the cost of a telephone call is dropping. But to do so, carriers are spending billions of dollars to upgrade their networks to deliver these files to handsets.

Securing these types of downloads could be the key to success, especially if people begin using cell phones to make transactions, such as buying a book from, analysts say. For example, Keith Waryas, an analyst at IDC, said that unlike a personal computer that is usually stationary, phones packed with crucial financial data can be easily lost.

"The security concern is going to be just as great, or possibly even greater, for consumers than what you've seen with personal computer-based" applications, he said.

The deals may also be just an exercise for now, Waryas said. Mobile commerce is still a ways off, although it's projected to reach billions of dollars.

The deal between Qualcomm and VeriSign announced Tuesday is the seventh such wireless venture for VeriSign this year.

The company is in a trial run with handset maker Motorola to put a public key infrastructure, meant to secure the transfer of data, onto some Motorola handsets. Struggling handset maker Ericsson is also using VeriSign's technology for commerce done over its phones.

But the VeriSign deals haven't been limited to handset makers. NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest telephone service provider, is also using VeriSign's technology. Openwave, which makes a miniature browser that is in an estimated 80 million phones worldwide, is using VeriSign technology to try to secure commercial transactions done using handsets.