Verisign Inc.'s plan to buy Network Solutions Inc. for $21 billion in stock calls into question the role banks will play in the business of digital certificates, which are used to authenticate transactions on the Internet, observers said Tuesday.

Many large banks are customers of Verisign, the Mountain View, Calif.-based digital certificate outsourcer that yesterday announced it had signed a definitive agreement to buy Network Solutions, which registers Web site addresses. Executives at those companies said the deal would simplify the process by which corporations and individuals register domain names and get digital certificates.

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