Harbinger Corp., an Atlanta-based private network for business-to- business communications, said it will use Internet-based data encryption software from Northern Telecom Ltd., Mississauga, Ontario.

Harbinger provides electronic data interchange services to about 18,000 corporations on its private telecommunications network.

The software should pave the way for more small and midsize businesses to do electronic data interchange, which is the automated exchange of documents, such as purchase orders and invoices, in standard computer formats.

Banks typically have had trouble turning a profit on financial interchange services they offer. Increased participation from small businesses could help turn that around.

Harbinger said it will use Northern Telecom's digital signature and key management software, called Entrust, to provide businesses with a secure way to send transactions over the Internet.

"There are probably five million businesses in the country that, in our view, should be conducting electronic commerce," said Ron Rosenthal, a director at Harbinger Corp's Net Services.

Harbinger said electronic transactions flowing over its network each year equal about $1.5 billion worth of business. The financial side of the transactions is settled using the banking system's automated clearing house network.

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