Hyderabad: If you are a frequent international traveller, there’s good news for you. Start-up Ajura Pte Ltd has developed a mobile application by the same name that claims to bring down the cost of international roaming on cellphones by as much as 95% as compared to the services of telecom operators of home countries.
“Roaming is something that the telecom operators know the customer can’t avoid. So mobile operators charge a premium," said Sanjit Chatterjee, chief executive of Ajura during a phone interview.
To be sure, messenger applications such as WhatsApp, Viber, Hangouts and Skype allow users to make free phone calls over the Internet. But the calls can be made only over the applications and both the caller and the receiver need to have it installed on their devices.
How does it work?
The app can be downloaded from Google Play store or Apple App Store. When travelling outside the country, sign up using your phone number and activate the roaming option in the app.
So if you are a non-resident Indian or a foreigner travelling to India, and a call is made to your number, the call is routed to Ajura’s cloud network, which then routes it to the Ajura app on phone. If you are online, the call connects. If not, the call is forwarded to voice mail.
Further, if you buy a local SIM card, the local number can be fed into the app, which then routes all incoming calls to the local number. It helps to have a local SIM card because the user can be constantly connected to a data network and receive calls as they come.
Ajura has tie-ups with different providers on the back-end, so the roaming costs come down drastically. “Cloud telephony technology acts as the backbone for the app. The calls are routed through back-end cloud technology," said Chatterjee.
Where is it available?
The service cannot be extended to all 196 countries in the world either due to lack of proper infrastructure or absence of the required regulatory environment. Some countries, including India, do not encourage call routing applications such as Ajura.
Telecom laws in India bar companies like Ajura from offering services to Indian users.
For this reason, Ajura’s international incoming roaming service is more useful to NRIs or foreigners visiting the country than to resident Indians. Since there are no restrictions in the US, the UK or Canadian telecom laws against the use of Internet telephony services like Ajura, users from these countries can use the Ajura app while visiting India and save substantially.
Indians travelling abroad with connections from local service providers like Airtel, Idea or Aircel can’t receive incoming calls through the Ajura app. They can, however, purchase a local SIM card overseas and make subsidised phone calls at rates as low as ₹ 2 per minute using the app.
The app currently supports international incoming call services for 54 countries, including Canada, the US, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. Users can also recharge SIM cards of over 100 countries from within the app.
“Ajura has tied up with two global aggregators to provide the service to its customers. It is in the process of ‘securing’ more relationships in different markets to address redundancy issues at the back-end and to gain better price arbitrage," Chatterjee said.
The international roaming services space is bustling with innovation. Canada-based KnowRoaming has designed a computer chip-embedded sticker that allows users to access local telecom networks without having to purchase a local SIM card.
Ajura was developed over a period of two years, and saw a soft launch in November. The full-fledged product is now ready after 4-5 upgrades. It was funded by parent Reve Group, a developer of telecom software.