Vodafone ponders billing platform delay in AU

Vodafone Australia is contemplating delaying the roll-out of the company's new Asia Pacific customer management platform in Australia to focus on "other challenges" facing the business locally.The project was expected to integrate Vodafone's hotchpotch of customer management systems dispersed throughout New Zealand, Fiji and Australia onto a single platform when it was announced in December 2003.

Vodafone Australia is contemplating delaying the roll-out of the company's new Asia Pacific customer management platform in Australia to focus on "other challenges" facing the business locally.

The project was expected to integrate Vodafone's hotchpotch of customer management systems dispersed throughout New Zealand, Fiji and Australia onto a single platform when it was announced in December 2003.

However, sources close to the project claimed that work on the project in Australia had been postponed indefinitely.

Vodafone Australia today vehemently denied the claim, characterising it as the product of "pure speculation" and refused to make any further comment on the matter. The company said that answering ZDNet Australia's   questions would "mislead" its customers.

However, that statement seemed a touch out of kilter with comments made by Andrea Midgen, who is currently leading the project for Vodafone in New Zealand.

Midgen was confident the project would definitely go ahead eventually, but she conceded that she was assessing how a temporary diversion of resources from work being undertaken on the system in Australia would impact the overall program. She said the assessment was being carried out at Vodafone Australia's request.

"One of the things I was asked to do was to answer [the question] 'hey if we [Vodafone Australia] wanted to pull some resources onto some other things in the Australian business, what would the impact be on the program?'," said Midgen.

Midgen said no decision had been made on the matter and that any delay expected from a decision to defer the roll-out in Australia was unlikely to stretch beyond two months.

Midgen was reluctant when it came to discussing why Vodafone Australia might need to divert its focus from the roll-out but pointed to strong competition in the local mobile market as a factor.

"The market place in Australia is very competitive and some more focus might be needed in terms of capacity -- people -- to be able to focus on dealing with their own market place issues," she said.

She added that Optus, Telstra and Hutchison with its 3 offering, were "all very competitive in the market place and they're all after customer growth".

ZDNet Australia's sources claimed the project was to be cancelled locally in order to allow Vodafone Australia to concentrate on recouping customer numbers lost in previous months.

According to recent reports Vodafone Australia lost 190,000 subscribers in the quarter to March, pushing its market share below 16 percent.

Vodafone Australia flatly refused to discuss Midgen's comments with ZDNet Australia  in any further detail.