AT&T Corp., one of the biggest of all billers, is putting an electronic presentment strategy into motion.
It plans to announce today that it will use software from Just in Time Solutions Inc. of San Francisco to give 70 million customers the option of receiving telephone bills over the Internet.
The BillCast software, which lets companies create and present electronic bills, incorporates the Open Financial Exchange, or OFX, technical standard, enabling AT&T to send bills to any Web site, including those of banks.
"We're committed to providing our customers with the choice of accessing their bills where it is most convenient for them," said Frank Delfer, chief information officer of AT&T's consumer division.
AT&T intends to "develop a single Internet billing platform that interfaces with multiple service providers, rather than developing several proprietary solutions," he said.
As one of the nation's largest billers, AT&T's decision and execution will be closely watched.
Its commitment to an "OFX Internet billing program is an important milestone for the entire electronic bill presentment and payment industry," said Paul Hughes, senior analyst with the Yankee Group, a technology research and consulting firm in Boston.
The move offers "an indication of the direction where billers of all sizes may be heading," he said.
Four-year-old Just In Time secured a $5 million "first round" of financing in July 1998 from investors including Intuit. Just in Time developed the OFX-compliant technology for the bill presentment and payment service that is available through Intuit's Quicken 98.
Brian Valente, senior director of marketing at Just in Time, said AT&T's choice indicates banks "are not slaves to Checkfree anymore for bill presentment and payment. Clearly, billers are opening the doors to working directly with banks."
Checkfree Holdings Corp. of Norcross, Ga., is the only major electronic bill presentment processor operating beyond the test phase.
AT&T has an agreement to present bills at Web sites using Checkfree's E- bill, Mr. Valente said. But the telecommunications giant would also look for agreements with other consolidators, he said.
AT&T could even become a consolidator itself, said Jeetu Patel, chief technical officer at Doculabs, a consulting firm in Chicago. It has an ever-growing number of product lines requiring bill presentment, he said, pointing out its presence in local and long distance phone service and investments in cable and multimedia companies. MediaOne, the object of AT&T's $60 billion acquisition bid last week, is a case in point.
Mr. Valente said BankAmerica is using Just In Time software in its own recently announced bill presentment service. He said another major U.S. bank is also a user, but he would not elaborate.