A European start-up company that promises to make Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls simpler said on Monday it has won funding from Sequoia Capital and will launch services in the United States.
The company, Jajah, headquartered in Luxembourg just like its rival Skype, which was taken over for $4.1 billion by eBay, has pledged to make cheap Internet calls as simple as using a search engine.
Jajah asks its users to go its Web site and type in the telephone numbers they want to connect. Jajah will call both parties and will route most of the call over the Internet.
Only the last mile of the call will be made over the existing phone infrastructure, either mobile or fixed line, and for this the company asks a fee related to charges made for local calls by telecommunications operators.
The company will further simplify calls by integrating its service with applications that already have contact information such as e-mail systems, online search engines and contacts databases such as LinkedIn and Plaxo. The first integrations, some of which will be automatic without downloads, will be live within a week.
"We will collect customers where the telephone numbers are," said co-founder Roman Scharf.
A further improvement of the service will take place in two months time when customers can initiate VoIP calls from their mobile phones.
"In May we will bring Jajah to the mobile phone. Consumers will be able to use Jajah from any mobile phone to any destination. We'll solve it by sending a little bit of software to the phone," said co-founder Roman Scharf.
Charges vary per call. Jajah says it will charge 0.18 euros (21 U.S. cents) per minute for a mobile to mobile call between the Netherlands and the United States, which will cost a minimum of 0.50 euros for a subscriber on the Dutch Vodafone network.
Jajah will charge 0.02 euros for a call between two fixed line phones between the two countries, which is half the price of some of the lowest call rates from existing operators like Tele2 and slightly more expensive than a Skype call from a computer to a normal phone.
"We're not the cheapest. Our aim is to get to the normal Internet user. Market research group found that only three out of every 100 Internet users make VoIP calls from their computer. But 95 out of 100 are able to use a search engine. These people may know about VoIP, but it needs to be easier," Scharf said.
Jajah is offering its services to consumers in 60 countries. Calls from those 60 countries can be made to any destination in the world.
Sequoia is a known for investments in high profile companies such as Google, Cisco Apple Oracle and Yahoo.
Scharf declined to say how much Sequoia had invested.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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