China Mobile’s Jego Wants To Challenge Skype By Targeting Overseas Chinese Users First

Jego, a VoIP app for iOS and Android, was launched by China Mobile International last month as part of an effort to build its international retail business by offering an alternative to other VoIP services. It might seem like China Mobile has a long way to go before it takes on well-established competitors like Skype, FaceTime and Google Voice. But China Mobile International is a wholly owned subsidiary of China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator with over 700 million subscribers, and it plans to leverage that massive user base to gain traction.

The first step is targeting China Mobile users who are currently overseas before broadening its market reach. Dr. John Jiang, the CTO of China Mobile International, says that there are currently one million Chinese abroad with an active China Mobile number. This number doesn’t include all China Mobile subscribers who are currently traveling outside of China, but it does count the people who keep their phones on so they can continue to receive calls. These users can bind their China Mobile numbers to a Jego account and receive free roaming incoming calls. In turn, this enables China Mobile to retain customers while they are overseas.

China Mobile customers abroad include tourists and emigrants, but on average they are overseas for two weeks, says Jiang. Jego will market to niches including the approximately 300,000 students who leave China each year to study abroad. Though it will be hard to convince people have already used Skype for years to try a new VoIP, Jiang says Jego believes its mobile app’s features, which include the option to link your phone’s contacts, will win over even users who don’t have a China Mobile number.

The second part of Jego’s customer acquisition strategy is marketing to foreigners doing business in China who want the convenience of a local number without having to buy a new SIM card. The third step is growing China Mobile’s international direct dialing business.

China Mobile International is currently building a cloud platform that will enable a network of mobile and fixed line operators around the world to let Jego users rent or bind multiple virtual numbers from different countries onto one smartphone. The company is currently negotiating with carriers based in Southeast Asia, the U.K. and the US. Once Jego launches it virtual SIM card service, a user can own multiple numbers and have the appropriate number show up on caller IDs depending on the region they dial.

There are already several companies that offer similar services, including Sim2Go and Sim2Travel. Jiang says that Jego’s advantage will be providing users with global networks, instead of limiting them to calls within one region. Another difference is that Jego won’t require users to insert a new SIM card. Instead, Jego users apply for virtual numbers online.

“With Jego, if I buy a single number, it doesn’t just work in Singapore or Hong Kong, but worldwide,” says Jiang. “I can still get benefits in England and receive free incoming calls. The benefit for each number is global, not limited to regions.”