BigPond billing trial poised for pre-Christmas kickoff

BigPond plans to restrict the initial trial of a new billing platform -- currently due to kick off on Wednesday -- to Telstra staff and a "limited number of outside people," a spokesperson confirmed today.The telecommunications heavyweight is now awaiting a "technical go-ahead" before commissioning the platform, a core element of an AU$100 million strategy to build what BigPond managing director Justin Milne describes as "a world-class Internet service provider".

BigPond plans to restrict the initial trial of a new billing platform -- currently due to kick off on Wednesday -- to Telstra staff and a "limited number of outside people," a spokesperson confirmed today.

The telecommunications heavyweight is now awaiting a "technical go-ahead" before commissioning the platform, a core element of an AU$100 million strategy to build what BigPond managing director Justin Milne describes as "a world-class Internet service provider". Other planks of the project have included commissioning of a new e-mail platform and an online tool that measures the status of customer connections.

BigPond's spokesperson confirmed to ZDNet Australia  invitations were scheduled to go out later this week to staff across the telecommunications heavyweight -- plus a limited range of outsiders -- who had home BigPond cable, dial-up, DSL and satellite connections, or were considering acquiring them.

The spokesperson could not confirm the exact number of participants the provider wanted to involve in the trial. BigPond managing director Justin Milne last month, however, put the figure at between 1,000 and 2,000.

The platform, when fully operational, will accommodate a BigPond customer base expected to grow well beyond the existing figure of 1.7 million over the next 12 months. Milne has said the platform would be opened to existing and new users by about April next year under a migration process that could take up to a year. The Internet service provider's existing range of billing systems -- which service both narrowband and broadband products -- will continue to operate alongside the new "access-agnostic" architecture throughout the migration process.

According to Telstra, customers will get "a much better overall experience" when migrating from dial-up to broadband and between access technologies.

They will get, the company says, "a full suite of invoicing and payment options -- electronic invoices through to the Telstra integrated bill; and online and direct debit to credit card payments through to cheques".

The new platform is based on an Infranet "core" with development work such as building of interfaces undertaken by BigPond's engineering unit. ZDNet Australia  understands the extensive scope of the project and consequent testing requirements pushed the go-live date for the trial back a couple of weeks from the planned kickoff of early December.