We’ve called Jajah, the Mountain View Internet phone upstart both quirky and scrappy.
It remains so. It has just cut some deals that will let people call for free to anyone with a landline, even if those people aren’t registered with Jajah. For now, Jajah is doing so only in two European countries, Germany and Austria, which have a combined population of 110 million people. If it makes money there — and it says it can, via advertising — Jajah may point the way to a future of free calls in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Skype doesn’t come close to this. In fact, Skype just increased its calls for Skypeout, which is the service you use to call people who have not downloaded Skype.
Jajah is offering its service via unconventional means: It has signed partnerships with three large media companies in German and Austria. Those companies — Bild, Germany’s largest newspaper; ProSiebenSat1, which owns two major German TV stations, and NewsAT, an Austrian station — will spend 7 million euros to advertise Jajah’s Internet phone service (they will point people to their own web pages, which will have a co-branded Jajah service from which people can make calls). These media giants want to do so, because they’re seeking traffic on their own Web sites. Deutsche Telekom, Germany’s large phone company, is part owner of Bild, is participating. A million of its customers are canceling their phone lines every quarter, fed up with high phone bills. DT sees the relationship with Jajah as a way of holding on to customers (customers will want to keep their existing contact numbers, even if they use Jajah for phone calls).
There’s a slight hitch to all this: Jajah continues to cut calls off at random times, sometimes after twenty minutes, sometimes after a half-hour, sometimes more, you can never tell. It bothers some people more than others.
Jajah will keep a full 50 percent of any advertising revenue that it sells on the pages it shows people while they make calls. It will sell a banner and a skyscraper on each page, and because it has signed with the media companies, it will have an easier time getting that advertising. Jajah is starting in Germany and Austria because advertising in those counties is relatively lucrative. It will expand into other countries, including in the UK, Italy and France, chief executive Roman Scharf told VentureBeat.
VentureBeat uses the service frequently for long distance calls, because they’re cheap, and we don’t have to stay tethered to our computer. You type in someone’s number, and the service calls your landline; you pick up, and Jajah puts the call through. Sounds like a hassle, but it works for us.
We wrote about the company here.
Jajah will, however, charge for phone calls made to mobile phones.
On Christmas day, Jajah will offer free calls everywhere, it told us.