Is Jajah really cool, or really lame? Offers free phone calls, maybe

Jajah, a Mountain View start-up, is supposedly offering free phone calls beginning today to any land or mobile phone in the United States, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

We were impressed, because our regular calls to Matt’s sister on weekends (she lives in the UK) have been choppy using Skype, and have tethered us to the PC. With Jajah, you can dial in your call at the PC, and then it hooks you up with your land-line, letting you talk for free and move around at the same time.

This is a really awesome service for regular people who just want to call for free, and have no hassles.

Or at least so we thought. While the Jajah folks who got in touch with us pledged “there is no catch,” and said we’d be able to talk for as long as we wanted to London, we went to the site this morning to try out the service (it is supposed to be up as of 7am EST), and a message told us Jajah was “upgrading.” There was also a little icon saying something about only having five free minutes between landline phones.

(Update: After several hours of being down this morning, the service is apparently up and working. Jajah has since removed the confusing five-minute sign, and made clear the five minutes refers only to a trial)

For now, we will give them the benefit of the doubt, and and assume they will get their act together sometime today. But here is how it is supposed to work.

To use the service, customers use a computer to register at Jajah.com, then type in the number they’re calling and the fixed or mobile phone they’re calling from. Jajah processes the information, and immediately calls the customer’s phone. When a customer picks up, the phone is ringing the destination phone number. The party being called also must be registered at Jajah’s site.

The plan also applies to land-line calls to and within Australia, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and most other European nations.

While companies such as AOL and Skype offer free Internet calls, Jajah’s service doesn’t require a high-speed Internet connection.

Jajah hopes to make money by charging for other services, such as the low-rate calls it provides to countries not on the free list, scheduled calling and small-business services.

This morning, the site wasn’t letting us register. Matt’s sister, who woke up in the UK earlier, was able to get to a registration page, but was confused by a question asking for a “source number.”

We’ll give this a day, and come back. We hope the get it together soon. Several hundred thousand people are about to wake up to read about the Jajah service in the Mercury News today. If it doesn’t work for them, will they come back?

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