JAJAH CEO Trevor Healy talks to voip.biz-news about the "sea change" currently taking place in the communications industry – and explains how that has resulted in JAJAH itself evolving from a consumer VoIP focus to become a global IP communications platform provider.
Telecom operators realise their business is shifting – what they do about it is another matter.
One company that appears well placed to offer an opinion is JAJAH – not least because it is about to sign "three or four" operators globally to use its IP platform.
Since its launch in March 2006 it has gone from being a web-activated calling solution to a platform of choice for outsourced IP managed services, partnering with a growing number of carriers, telcos and technology companies to white label its services.
Trevor Healy, CEO of JAJAH, said there is no doubt that mobile operators’ views have evolved over the last two to three years.
|JAJAH CEO Trevor Healy|
He told voip.biz-news that their attitude to a service like mobile VoIP has gone from ‘this is not going to happen’ to ‘it’s a problem on a small scale’ and had now reached ‘it’s going to happen and we have to be involved’.
"When we started our business we always had these strategy debates internally about whether we should engage the operators," he said. "We knew it would take time for them to get their heads around it.
"Now we are close to signing three or four operators globally to use our platform."
Healy said JAJAH is offering carriers a fully serviced data communications platform, from which they can then cherry pick services such as payment and billing, fraud protection and termination engines.
He said the carriers would use the JAJAH IP platform for a number of different things.
"Some want to effectively capture more international call traffic, either originating or arising in their country," he said.
"They now understand that customers are using this tool for long distance calls. But rather than build a platform themselves it’s easier for them to partner us and OEM our platform."
Healy said operators didn’t only want to capture domestic calls but also those made by displaced internationals.
"So, for example, it could be an Irish operator trying to capture all Irish callers in the US," he said.
At the other end of the spectrum were operators such as Japan’s EMOBILE who are working on pure Voice over HSDPA.
"They are right at the edge of the technology curve," said Healy. "Then there are the WiMAX guys who are coming to us saying ‘we need something to bridge the gap between now and then."
Another "market" for JAJAH is operators that are experiencing saturation in their domestic markets and who are looking to find new sources of revenue.
This is the case in Italy, according to Healy, where there are two mobiles for every male in the country.
"So because of this they need to go overseas," he said. "As they go international they look at how they can build up their market internationally."
Healy said he expected to see interest from the Tier 2 operators first, since they were facing far more competition.
And he said the Tier 1s would probably try and integrate platforms internally initially, a process which he reckoned would see some failures and provide "pickings" for JAJAH.
"There’s definitely a sea change in the operator landscape – and it will continue to evolve," he said.
"We are trying to evolve a business model philosophy. The CAPEX model is not going to work.
"If we do not put a barrier in front of these companies, we will drag them along to our vision."
That vision has been developing for the past three years, during which time JAJAH has been shifting its focus away from just providing the mobile web VoIP model of free client-to-client calls and low-cost international rates.
A year ago the Silicon Valley-based company began providing VoIP back-end operations to customers such as Yahoo and Match.com.
It formed a strategic partnership with Intel to get its technology onboard next-generation PCs and offers a range of software clients to support VoIP calling on WiFi.
However, the real emphasis has been on becoming a service provider as well as a brand for end-user calls. At the end of February, JAJAH signed a deal with BoldCall to provide online retail customers with JAJAH’s click-to-call services.
Healy said JAJAH has effectively re-invented itself three times in its corporate life, while staying in the same core market.
The genesis behind the changes had been seeing the flow of dollars from large companies into enterprises, which then wanted to offer new solutions to their customers – very often their employees.
"We started as a consumer business. What we did for consumers, we did very well," he said.
"Then other companies started saying: ‘why not open up your platform on an OEM/white label basis?’"
The resulting evolution has seen JAJAH design its IP platform to suit three general participants in the market:
- Enterprises – especially large multinationals such as Pfizer
- Internet companies – such as Yahoo, that use JAJAH’s platform to carry voice
- Operators – who want to make a platform for OEMs
Healy said the initial part of this business model change saw JAJAH offering its services to large companies.
Then Yahoo asked JAJAH to integrate voice into its messaging platform for its 100 million IM users.
"More recently we re-invented ourselves again by putting it into the cloud and offering a purely managed service to companies like Yahoo with no upfront fee," he said.
"We started to see unified communications in the cloud."
Healy said they saw what the likes of Microsoft, Cisco and Oracle were doing in enterprises and identified a "sweet spot".
He said they realised that enterprises had a lot of front-end applications but no connectivity.
So large corporations with offices worldwide were having to organise and invest in UC – effectively replicating JAJAH’s offering.
"So we reiterated our platform as a full platform for enterprises, moving into UC," he said.
While enterprises have always featured in JAJAH’s activities – there are more than 5,000 businesses using the platform at any one time – this shift into UC on the cloud is a new niche.
However, Healy said various factors mean the company is well placed for the change.
He said JAJAH is global by nature, connecting into 220 countries around the world, and its consumer background means it understands what services and apps people are using outside the office environment.
This global connectivity is device-agnostic – the company has an "anything in and anything out" philosophy of connectivity – and it has mobile solutions for a wide range of devices.
In financial terms, the change in emphasis has meant revenues shifting in favor of infrastructure activities.
Healy said this is increasing every quarter and is nearly at an 80-20 revenue split between the IP platform and consumer sides of the business.
"Having said that, the consumer business is a very good one and is still important because it’s our sandbox to test a lot of our offerings," he said.
"When we bring it to a carrier, it’s been seriously tested. A lot of companies are doing their testing in a lab environment and then testing it in an operator’s environment."
Healy said the VoIP calling business had also proved itself on a small scale – it has more than 15 million subscribers.
"If our consumer business was in the hands of a bigger brand and with more investment then it would be a huge business," he said. "The model works and consumers are very loyal."
It has been necessary to concentrate on the platform side at the expense of the consumer business, according to Healy, because JAJAH is a small company and can’t afford to dilute itself too much.
He fully expects the company to reap the rewards from this approach.
"In the long term, enabling others to do what we do is the better strategy," he said.