Jajah gets the chop
Dec 2, 2013
Jajah was founded by a couple of Europeans, Roman Scharf and Daniel Mattes, in 2005. Telefonica bought it for a reported $205 million in 2009 and much of the activity shifted to California. The current users (no information how many but it may still be millions - just not active ones as previously) will have service until 31st January 2014, at which point (FCC allowing) it will be shut down.
Jajah was always more (or perhaps less) than a conventional VoIP play in that it didn’t use VoIP on either the originating or terminating legs of its calls. It used conventional switched calls. Instead, if you wanted to get down and technical, it was “Web enabled” (the term prefered by the founders).
In fact, in IT paleontological terms, Jajah could be classified as a living link between the old ‘call-back’ services of the early 1990s - which essentially turned calls around so that the calling party became the called party and paid the cheaper rate - and today’s end-to-end VoIP services.
Jajah did the call turnaround thing across the Web via a browser, with the user initiating a call involving two terminating segments - one to him or herself and a second to the called party. Jajah paid tiny wholesale termination charges for both segments and used VoIP only in the core. The user paid a much lower call charge, especially on international calls.
The advantage of this approach was that users got telco voice quality with Skype-level (or close to) pricing. The VoIP of even 10 years ago was perceived (with some reason) as suffering greatly over the access network, in many cases because the broadband provider (cable operator, telco or ISP) felt justified in identifying and degrading service.
So when VoIP was mostly done from a desktop PC , the Jajah approach had a lot to recommend it. Today, however, IP performance has moved on to make VoIP calls ‘good enough’ and reliable enough, while the smartphone with its downloadable app has made the whole mobile VoIP calling process really easy. Now it’s the VoIP services that ‘just work’ and offer rock-bottomed prices for switched connections with free calls for IP to IP.
Jajah, meanwhile, is still trying to enable a simplified call procedure for its call turn-around process. It moved to individualised ‘local’ numbers for International calls some years ago for mobile, and most recently is in Beta with a system which sets up calls via Twitter.
All very clever but no longer where the future is. Now the humble old voice call is so commoditised that I doubt whether there is any forward-thinking model which sees voice calling as anything more than either a ‘must have’ for a range of services, or a way in to another, profitable, service.