Telstra drops Big Pond brand, launches WAP banking

Telstra has dropped its Big Pond Internet service branding in favour of a new all encompassing portal site, Telstra.com.

Combining Telstra's existing Internet service, Big Pond, with other online initiatives including the White and Yellow pages, Telstra.com provides customers with online information including news, personalised content and applications, as well as Telstra services such as billing and payments.

Features provided by the Web site include free Web-based e-mail, unified messaging, a personalised Web page, e-commerce applications, search facilities and Telstra online sales and services.

At the heart of the new Web site, are wireless application protocol (WAP) services bringing Telstra's Internet services to mobile phones. Using WAP-enabled phones, Telstra customers will be able to access news, weather, financial and other content as well as e-mail via Telstra.com.

Telstra group managing director for convergent business Ted Pretty said Telstra.com demonstrated a "fundamental shift" in online services.

"What we are seeing in the market today is the second stage or dimension. Telstra.com is really the third dimension," Pretty said.

Just 90 days in the making, Telstra.com is in its initial stages but will be constantly updated over the next 12 months, Pretty said. Future plans for the site include interactive TV, increased personalisation and online video.

Dick Simpson, group managing director for Telstra OnAir said Telstra's WAP service, available now, would be free of charge during the trial period, which concludes in March 2000.

Simpson said while the pricing structure is still being determined he expects there would be different tariff plans available for heavy or casual users.

He said he believes the cost of the WAP service for a moderate user will be around 20 to 25 cents per e-mail message.

Currently available on Telstra's GSM network, Simpson said the WAP service will also be accessible on its CDMA network in regional and rural areas next year.

Meanwhile, Telstra partner Westpac has launched Australia's first WAP-based mobile banking service. Using the service, Westpac customers are able to access banking details via their mobile phones, enabling users to transfer money, pay bills, and trade shares.

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