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Qualcomm To Buy Firethorn To Boost Mobile Services Effort

Firethorn connects financial institutions and wireless operators in a platform that in turn links to consumers' wireless devices.

Qualcomm moved to beef up its mobile phone services Wednesday by acquiring mobile banking provider Firethorn Holdings (pdf) for about $210 million in cash.

While Qualcomm's expertise has traditionally centered on its intellectual property and its core networking offerings, it has been moving recently toward improving its services features as evidenced by its recent participation in the Android Open Handset Alliance announcement.

Firethorn connects financial institutions and wireless operators in a platform that in turn links to consumers' wireless devices. Atlanta-based Firethorn's existing partners include Wachovia, SunTrust Bank, Regions Financial, BancorpSouth, and Synovus.

"The acquisition of Firethorn will allow Qualcomm to help drive the evolution of mobile banking by leveraging Firethorn's industry expertise, reputation and success in developing relationships with financial institutions, wireless operators, and payment processors," said Qualcomm's Ken Lauer, executive VP and group president, in a statement. Lauer, who will oversee the Firethorn operation, noted also that the acquisition will build on Qualcomm's Enterprise Services unit that provides integrated wireless systems to businesses.

Qualcomm said the Firethorn acquisition will help consumers move to mobile banking services and will enable consumers to view account balances and history, as well as money transfers and bill payment transfers. "Qualcomm is a recognized technology leader and this acquisition is a strong endorsement of the strategic importance of mobile commerce," said Trip Rackley, chairman and CEO of Firethorn, in a statement.

Rackley will continue to lead Firethorn, which will remain in Atlanta.

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