VeriSign Builds for Wireless

In its new telecommunications strategy, VeriSign said it will focus on security in network, data and mediation and billing services.

By Bob Woods | Posted Mar 19, 2002
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Digital-trust services firm VeriSign Inc. is taking advantage of two recent acquisitions to move into the telecommunications market.

The company, which is better known for its digital certificates and management of Web domains through its Network Solutions subsidiary, said it is launching a three-pronged attack into the telecom arena. VeriSign said it will target telecom carriers that can use its new services to expand their data and voice service offerings in both the consumer and enterprise ends of their businesses.

VeriSign's three new areas are:

  • Network Services - through its ownership of the largest SS7 network in North America and management of the Internet's domain-name system, VeriSign said it can bridge Internet protocol (IP) and switch-based networks. The SS7 network provides connectivity, switch and transport functions essential for phone calls to be set up and completed on the current public switched telecommunications network (PSTN) and enables seamless roaming by wireless phone users.
  • Data Services: VeriSign plans to enable wireline and wireless data services like addressing, wireless PKI (public key infrastructure - a system of digital certificates, Certificate Authorities, and other registration authorities that verify and authenticate the validity of each party involved in an Internet transaction), secure messaging and wireless content delivery.
  • Mediation and Billing Services - VeriSign provides advanced billing, payments, and customer care solutions to wireless carriers and is the second largest wireless clearing provider in the U.S. Its mediation services encompass wireless clearing and settlement services, toll clearinghouse services, directory assistance call completion, Operations Support System (OSS) Interconnection services, and SMS Interoperability.

"Carriers are interested in growth, customer retention, and revenue generation, and their subscribers are looking for new services," said Terry Kremian, VeriSign's executive vice president, telecommunications services, in a statement. "Our mission for telecommunications is to enable businesses and consumers to communicate what they want, wherever they want and how they want."

VeriSign's new telecom services, including those specifically geared toward wireless carriers, come from the company's recent acquisitions in the area. Late last year, VeriSign signed on the dotted line to buy Illiminet Holdings Inc., a developer of intelligent network and signaling services to communications carriers, for about $1.2 billion in a cash-plus-stock deal. And earlier this year, VeriSign closed its buyout of H.O. Systems, a provider of billing and customer-care solutions to wireless carriers, for $340 million in cash and stock.

While wireline and wireless carriers will benefit from VeriSign's outsourced telecommunications services, recent growth in wireless data services is providing the fuel for the company's product expansions announced today. For example, Openwave Systems Inc. , which develops open IP-based communication infrastructure software and applications, said it would collaborate with VeriSign to drive adoption of advanced mobile messaging services. A new pact between the two companies calls for VeriSign to host Openwave's SMS-enabled Mobile Instant Messaging solution for carriers as a service bureau offering.

In addition, VeriSign and Openwave said they will work together to provide their mutual customers with an integrated solution for inter-carrier messaging (ICM), which will include the Openwave Mobile Messaging Gateway (MMG) in the carrier network as the gateway to the VeriSign Metcalf Global Messaging (Metcalf GM) ICM service that VeriSign has deployed with MobileSpring, for delivery of SMS messages outside of the originating carrier network.

Metcalf GM is an intercarrier text messaging solution that's designed to let wireless customers exchange text messages with other wireless subscribers on virtually any digital network -- regardless of the carrier -- via a common interface and addressing scheme.

Users will benefit by the VeriSign/Openwave teaming, as it will be possible to address short text messages to other users by simply using their mobile phone numbers or their buddy names, ignoring previous barriers between different operators, officials said. Carriers, meantime, will be able to accelerate SMS and mobile instant messaging adoption and usage in the Americas -- bringing with it additional per-message revenues.

MobileSpring and Illuminet, meantime, said that Sprint PCS will deploy MobileSpring/Illuminet's Metcalf GM. Sprint PCS Short Mail currently enables customers to input the 10-digit phone number of a Sprint PCS customer and send a new or "canned"/pre-set text message. Starting April 1, Sprint will launch the new Intercarrier Messaging feature of Sprint PCS Short Mail, which will let customers enter in even more wireless numbers and enjoy a conversation even when it is not convenient to make or take a call. The ability for other carriers' customers to respond to Sprint messages will vary by service provider, officials added.

VeriSign is also addressing the billing end of the business equation, in its demonstration of its new infini-G solution developed by H.O. Systems, an always-on, real-time, stand-alone application that enables H.O. to rate both voice and data and gives carriers a way to bill for data that users download on their wireless devices. In addition, the company announced an upgraded Advance Pay Model to collect wireless billing payments upfront and a new offering of its customer-care speedNET network management solution.

Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.

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