OmniSky Corp. on Wednesday began offering a wireless Internet service for users of Palm V handheld devices.

The Palo Alto., Calif., company offers Web connectivity as well as content that users can link to from OmniSky's home page. It has distribution agreements with 167 companies in categories such as finance, travel, shopping, and news, a spokeswoman said.

Those in the finance category include E-Trade Group Inc., Fidelity Investments, DLJ Direct, and Ameritrade. E-Trade, which has several similar deals, is the only one with an online bank; it has a stated goal of becoming "a leading all-electronic financial services player on the mobile platform."

Through previous deals E-Trade lets customers use its Web site from two-way phones, pagers, and handheld devices. It also plans to make the site accessible from digital wireless phones.

There are about 20 million wireless devices in use in the United States, according to E-Trade. Meridian Research has predicted that by 2003 roughly the same number of people will own a handheld gadget capable of gaining access to electronic financial services.

At first only Palm V users will be able to use OmniSky, but eventually it will be available on other brands of handheld devices, a spokeswoman said. Customers can sign up with OmniSky through its Web site and toll-free phone line. It will be available next month on a trial basis in selected retail stores at $39.95 a month.

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