SMS is the new black

A review of mass market mobile apps

Tuesday feature: the low-down on Jajah

Posted by Jon Russell on January 13, 2009

Today’s Tuesday Tech feature is back with a bang, we hope one and all enjoyed the festive period.

Let’s begin by establishing a few facts about communications in the business world…

1. Today’s business world is global

2. Today’s business world doesn’t sleep

3. Being contactable and available 24/7 is essential (and the sum of points 1 & 2)

4. The European Union is continuing to crackdown on rates, yet international calling remains sky-high

5. Despite the emergence of internet communications telephony 2.0 technologies currently lack the critical mass, security and reliability to serve as a primary form of business communication

These points emphasise that mobile continues to play the critical part in ensuring businesses communicate and can be communicated with in this modern environment. Everyone has one, they are simple to use and, the bottom line is, they can be used to communicate effectively.

So are businesses doomed to a future of expensive (but essential) calls overseas? Not according to internet telephony firm Jajah.

The company, which announced 10 million customers in April 2008, was “founded out of frustration with the existing ways of making long distance phone calls” according to Paul Naphtali, Jajah VP Global Marketing. Naphtali took some time out of his schedule to speak to us.

So, how does Jajah enable international calling?

“By embracing the concept of any” says Naphtal, “any person, anywhere, on any network, with any device, any generation or standard, any time.”

Indeed Jajah works as a web-based call centre which, on a basic technical level, hosts two locals calls (one with each calling party) and hooks them up together using a VoIP call (a call hosted over the web). In doing so, the caller pays no more than a local rate for their call as opposed international calling rates which business have become accustomed to.

In practice

Making a call is straight forward once a user has signed up. Most are made directly from the company website where the desired number is inputted, along with the international code, before pressing the call button. A local Jajah server will then call the Jajah user initiating on the number they registered as theirs on set-up.

Once connected the user is put on hold whilst the second server (in the destination contact’s country) is contacted and hooked up to the existing call, from here the call proceeds as a regular one. All in all the ‘hook-up’ process takes no more than 45 seconds and a user can choose to fill the dead-time with adverts which generate additional calling credit at the end of each month.

Calls can be made without the need to access the internet, instead using designated short code numbers which Jajah generates for the contacts within a users address book. These codes can be used to dial the contact directly from a mobile handset, this bypassing the call set-up process and simplifying the process further still. There is also a mobile web site which is proving popular for smartphone users, a segment which Jajah is seeing “increasing usage” of its service within.

Quality

The call quality is carrier-grade but, at times, a small time delay may be present on the call. Generally there is little difference between a Jajah call and an equivalent international call on a fixed/mobile network.

A great testimony to Jajah success is its agreement with Yahoo which has seen the company’s infrastructure used to support all (incoming/outcoming) calls between Yahoo Messenger and mobile/fixed-line phones. The deal saw Yahoo pick up a further 97 million customers and Naphtal admits that, with dozens of other firms using Jajah’s back-end set-up, “you can draw your own assumptions on what the number will be when we next release them”.

Future innovations

Quite understandably Naphtal wouldn’t be drawn into discussing any specific details of upcoming features for Jajah but he does promise they will “go way beyond voice”. A current trend of telephony 2.0 firms has been the establishing of an internet ‘presence’, such telephony button applications and Facebook plug-ins, to link mobile and internet communications.

Naphtal revealed that in 2009 Jajah “will have something that brings this ‘connected life’ together”, so we suspect that a Facebook app or telephony button will be available from Jajah in the not too distant future.

Pricing

Prices are can be found on the Jajah website, and are incredibly competitive from the UK – although the best price saving is made when a Jajah user is calling from a landline, rather than a mobile phone. For example a call to a non-Jajah member in France will be 2p per minute from a landline, but a minimum of 11.9p per minute from a mobile phone.

The service comes into its own when calls are made between registered Jajah users, using the ‘Free Global Calling Program’, although in the UK the call must be made from a user on a landline phone. In other countries, such as Thailand where this reporter is based, calls from mobile devices to fellow Jajah members are free.

Although the service is incredibly popular there have been a few rumblings of discontent from some regular users over the recently introduced programme which allows customers to make 150 minutes of free calls per month so long as they have deposited payment in their account within the last 6 weeks.

Regularly users made the case that the policy will effectively lead to their money being stockpiled in their account. I.e. they do not exceed the allotted free calls per month, and therefore do not spend money in their account yet they must top-up every 6 weeks to remain eligible for the free calls.

This only affects a minority of users however, most users in the UK, where calls originating from a mobile are not free, will appreciate that they can call fellow Jajah users for free from their landline whilst using the credit in their account credit for priced calls.

Summary

We have tested a range of international calling services and Jajah sits happily near the top. The fact that the service is so simple, a broadband connection isn’t even necessary, it works on a range of devices and Jajah offers a monthly allowance of free calls – makes this system quite unique against the rest of the calling market.

The only mild drawbacks are a slight time-lag (which is an ongoing issue for all telephony 2.0 companies) and the cost of calling originating from a mobile in the UK. Jajah’s Naphtal has promised big changes in 2009 and we fully expect these two to be near the top of Jajah’s list of resolutions for the New Year.

You can also keep up with Jajah on Twitter, which is also useful for posing any questions or thoughts to the company’s active Twitter team.

Do you agree with our overview of Jajah? Have you had a great experience from Jajah or one of its competitors? Get in touch with us with your thoughts.

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