Mobile phones should be a lot more secure in 2006, thanks to a new security specification due to be released early next year.

The specification is being developed by the Trusted Computing Group (TCG) an industry association backed by mobile vendors such as Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung Electronics.

The TCG has already created standards for PCs, servers, and networks designed to enable secure computing, and at this week's Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association Wireless IT & Entertainment conference in San Francisco, the group took a step toward finalising its mobile standard.

On Tuesday the TCG released a number of "use cases" that define the areas the TCG's mobile standards are expected to cover. These documents discuss things like locking down phones so they are harder to use when lost or stolen, managing software updates and patches, and enabling secure payments via mobile devices.

Still, the hard work of actually defining the mobile specification remains to be done, according to Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates who serves as on the TCG's advisory council.

"They're basically saying that they're working on it," he said of the TCG. "They've defined the scope of their mission and a timetable for completing it, but they haven't defined the specifications."

The TCG said it expects to have a publicly available mobile phone specification ready in the first half of 2006. This means that devices supporting the specification should begin to emerge by the end of next year, Kay said.

The first mobile phones built with this security technology should be harder to use without proper authorisation. As more infrastructure is built to support the TCG standards, phones will become more resistant to mobile viruses and other forms of abuse, Kay said.

As mobile phones become even more secure, they could evolve into a kind of electronic wallet that could be used to authenticate buyers and sellers in online transactions, he said.