Jajah hopes to cut internet users' VoIP charges with a new service Monday that bypasses some operators' high long-distance and international charges. The service provides subscribers with a unique local number for each of their contacts that they can dial from fixed-line or mobile phones.

Jajah will also extend some of the 'free' calls plans it offers users of its PC-based internet telephony service to subscribers of the new service, a spokesman for the company said today.

However, the so-called free calls will only be free to customers who are not charged by their regular telephone provider for carrying local calls. While that may be the case in the US, European telephone subscribers pay for most of their local calls from fixed lines - while calls from mobiles are typically charged at the same rate whether the call is local or long distance.

For other calls, customers will pay their local operator for the local call, and pay Jajah a surcharge for the long-distance or international component.

Jajah is one of many internet telephony service providers that offer telephony at basement prices in an increasingly commoditised market. The company has been offering a VoIP phone service that originates and terminates calls on fixed-line and mobile phones. Subscribers, however, had to go to Jajah’s Web portal and enter their user name and password to set up each call.

The new service, called Jajah Direct, allows users to make VoIP calls from their standard fixed-line and mobile phones, without requiring a PC and internet connection each time they make a call.

Jajah Direct is one of several technologies Jajah plans to introduce to extend its services to people who may not be able to afford a PC or Internet connection. Another technology under development is the use of SMS on a mobile phone to initiate a call on the Jajah service, Trevor Healy, CEO of Jajah said in a telephone interview in September.

Users of Jajah Direct will dial a local Jajah access number in their city, and then dial the number they want to call. Jajah connects the user directly using VoIP. After the call, the caller will receive a unique local number for the contact, which can be stored for direct dialling.

Each user will get a unique local number for the particular contact, said the spokesman. When the user dials the unique local number, the Jajah server compares this number with the data available in the server database to generate the number that the person wants to call, the spokesman said. The unique local number can only be used within a particular city.

Jajah will initially offer the local number facility in ten cities in Europe, including London, Berlin and Rome, ten cities in the US, and in Tel Aviv. The company plans to add more local numbers in the next few weeks, the spokesman said. The service is available to 122 countries.