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Calling Cards 3.0 – part 3 December 10, 2010

Posted by themobilephoneconnoisseur in Uncategorized.
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Selling calling cards online, i.e. selling voucher codes on the web, started in the early 00’s. A number of these sites started by selling top up voucher codes for mobile prepaid services and, to increase margins, also sold calling cards with the same infrastructure.

Not long after that, a number of companies that had the idea of administrating regular phone calls from the web started up. I normally group these into three main types of services:

  • Call back services. Sometimes referred to as Callback 2.0, the idea is to call up both parties, triggering the call typically via a web page, e-mail or text message. Companies like Jajah and MobileMiser successfully gained thousands of users.
  • Call through services. Operator One, Rebtel, Jaxtr and Localphone have the approach of making a call that more or less is directly routed to a different destination. This approach is the most similar to a regular call.
  • Other services. There are other methods as well, such as MobiVox that uses voice recognition, essentially returning to the classic dial up operator services from the mid 20th century. Probably the most talked about is Google Voice; originally a company called GrandCental, that uses an incoming call to generate a new one.

Many services offer a combination of alternatives, but usually have a core service, which they build around.

In parallel, standard VoIP/SIP-providers and proprietary solutions such as Skype grew dramatically in the mid 00’s.

The so called ethnic segment, which traditionally used Calling Cards 2.0 services, now had access to the internet and (pre paid) mobile phones. This shift in access to new technology sparked more and more users to use Calling Card 3.0 services instead, while the Calling Card 2.0 services saw a dramatic traffic decline. The decline was also due to the growing number virtual of operators with a clear international calling profile, first launched by Lebara Mobile in The Netherlands in 2004.

A major difference when the calling cards went online was that there was a very clear internationalization. More or less all companies who are online today operate their business from one place, rather than having local representation in each country. With the increased availability of purchasing phone numbers remotely (a.k.a. DIDs) the need for a local sales office has gradually faded away. Business was now in the cloud.

Next post: Calling Cards 4.0 – The mobile apps.

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