Electronic billing is heating up

EBPP is heating up! Want proofs? Companies are buying their way deeper into the field and others are partnering to deliver greater expertise.

Electronic bill presentment and payment is heating up.

Want proof?

eTime Capital Inc., InteliData Technologies Corp. and Avolent Inc. are acquiring companies to jump-start their respective EBPP offerings, while iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions and MetraTech Corp. have announced EBPP additions to their applications.

EBPP lets companies send bills over the Internet to their business and consumer customers and allows those customers to pay online.

eTime Capital, which provides transaction reconciliation and settlement services for the financial supply chain sector, will announce next week its acquisition of Dynamic Transactions Inc. The purchase of DTI, best known for its PayPlace service, which settles payments between online buyers and sellers, will propel eTime Capital into the EBPP space and shave months in product development time, according to officials of the Sunnyvale, Calif., company.

"We've researched and heard from our customers that EBPP is a key area," said George Pavlov, president and CEO of eTime Capital. "This [acquisition] ... advanced our time to market to three months, rather than six to nine."

There's plenty more

Also buying their way deeper into EBPP are InteliData and Avolent. The former announced late last week that it is acquiring Home Account Holdings Inc., of Emeryville, Calif., its Home Account Network Inc. subsidiary, and its suite of Unix-based Internet banking and EBPP products for about $36 million.

InteliData, of Reston, Va., already offered remote banking services to financial institutions. The deal gives the company a broader customer base -- including some credit card issuers -- and the fast handle on Home Account's current client roster, including some of the country's top financial institutions, such as Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., First United Corp. and Scudder Kemper.

For its part, San Francisco-based Avolent said Tuesday it had completed the acquisition of Solant Inc., which has expertise in business-to-business electronic bill payment, reporting and analysis.

Separately, iPlanet, of Santa Clara, Calif., yesterday announced two partnerships that will enhance its current electronic billing capabilities. Formed through a Sun Microsystems Inc.-Netscape Communications Corp. alliance, iPlanet currently has an EBPP offering with its iPlanet BillerXpert. The company said it will work on new products that make BillerXpert compatible with EBPP products from Oasis Technologies Inc. and analysis products from SAS Institute Inc. None of the companies said when such products would be available.

Finally, MetraTech, of Waltham, Mass., a Web services billing provider, on Tuesday rolled out an XML (Extensible Markup Language)-based billing platform that will not only broaden its current electronic billing capabilities but will also speed its customers' time to market with EBPP offerings.

The MetraTech platform allows its customers -- such as startup voice communication services provider eYak Inc. and telecommunications giant MCI WorldCom Inc. -- to electronically manage aspects of the billing process such as metering, rating, taxing, branding, presentation and payment, according to company officials.

Boston-based eYak is implementing MetraTech's billing platform to provide real-time EBPP services to its client base of telecom, distance-learning and Internet companies.

Bill Pucci, vice president of operations and services for eYak, said his company went with MetraTech because of the agility its platform offers. "They provide flexibility in their software and can respond to change very quickly," said Pucci. "MetraTech's use of adapters allows us to get new products to market in very short order."

Market researcher International Data Corp., of Framingham, Mass., predicts that worldwide Internet-based EBPP application and transaction revenue will exceed $1 billion in 2004.