Nearly one year after Skype Ltd. stole the headlines at the 3GSM World Congress with its plans to offer a mobile version of its Internet phone, a couple of nimble startups — and not the Net telephony pioneer itself — appear to have found a way to make this type of service work, both technically and commercially.
Earlier this week, Jajah Inc. announced a new mobile VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) service that allows smart-phone users to make low-cost and, in some cases, free international calls. Customers simply enter Jajah’s mobile Web portal through their handset’s browser, enter their user name and password and then make a either a free or low-cost call.
The launch of Jajah Mobile Web comes on the heals of a mobile VOIP offering by Fring Inc., which, unlike Jajah, requires users to download software and install it in their Internet-enabled handsets. The Fring service gives mobile users access to P-to-P (peer-to-peer) VOIP offerings such as Skype and Google Talk. Microsoft Corp. appears to have its finger on the pulse of mobile VOIP, too. Next week in Barcelona, the U.S. software giant will unwrap a new version of its Windows Mobile OS that will supposedly enable carriers and device maker to add VOIP functionality to Windows Mobile devices.
All these announcements — and the many more expected at this year’s 3GSM World Congress — come as Skype, which essentially stunned the mobile phone industry last year with its VOIP plans, acknowledges technical and commercial hurdles.
In a recent interview in Finnish newspaper, Skype co-founder and CEO Niklas Zennstr