3Jam, Inc., headquartered in San Francisco, California, was founded in 2006 to take advantage of the emerging growth in SMS-based applications, such as group text messaging and two-way Web-to-SMS services. The two founders had observed that mobile phones had improved dramatically in the last decade (can you say iPhone?), but that text messaging had remained largely unchanged. They also noted that text messaging had an extremely high rate of consumer adoption and was a very good revenue opportunity for service providers, but had a relatively poor user experience when compared with other messaging media.
So the 3Jam founders set out to improve this simple concept, first developing a reply-all function to text messaging, giving the user the ability to send a text message to a group of friends, have everyone know who received it, and be able to reply to all the group.
As they furthered the development of their broad text messaging platform, they came to realize that their architecture’s uniqueness was the manner in which their platform was able to eliminate the tie between text messaging and the mobile network.
For example, most of today’s text messaging systems operate on a point-to-point basis, much like the e-mail systems of several decades ago. 3Jam developed the concept of a server-side inbox for text messaging, allowing that communication to be accessed similar to POP3/IMAP e-mail.
The next logical step was to virtualize text messaging, so that people could send and receive text messages using their phone number from anywhere (their PC desktop, the Web, social networks), meaning that customers were no longer tied to their mobile phone. The idea caught on. The founders secured funding from two Silicon Valley venture capital groups, and have since grown to almost four million users globally.
In addition, the company has added voice services to its portfolio, claiming to be one of the first companies to launch voice and SMS-enable virtual numbers.
The 3Jam business proposition is based on the premise that enterprises are moving toward an employee workforce that is more virtual, not tied to a single telephone line (landline, VoIP line, or otherwise). 3Jam considers their service to be in the category of work lines, which effectively provides a phone number to the employee, not a phone per se. 3Jam then provides a number porting service, With that service in place, the employee can have both their business and personal numbers ring a single device (such as their Blackberry), eliminating the need to carry both a business and personal phone. This model saves the cost of a dedicated phone, and it enables the employer to take back the number if the employee leaves (which can be especially important if they are in a sales or business-development role).
The 3Jam cloud architecture includes three distinct feature sets: phone numbers, voice capabilities, and SMS functions.
In the phone number category, the system allows phone numbers to be ported from over 30 different carriers in the United States, including landlines and wireless numbers. Group SMS numbers are also available, as is integration with social media systems, such as Facebook or Twitter.
In the voice area, the system provides PSTN-to-VoIP connectivity, the capability of simultaneously ringing multiple phones, U.S. and International call forwarding, voice-to-Skype conversions, and more.
In the SMS area, the system allows SMS to both U.S. and international destinations services without the customer having to own a mobile phone. It also provides a Web-based SMS inbox, threaded conversations, two-way SMS to mobile phone, Web, e-mail ,and IM destinations, presence-based message routing, plus an ad-hoc SMS group chat facility (both conference and broadcast).
The entire system is managed through a Web-based interface that allows users to view all of their received calls and visual voicemails, plus manage multiple 3Jam numbers. The user has the ability to send a call directly to voicemail, forward the call to either a mobile or work number, or forward the call to an IM system. As mentioned, 3Jam has also developed a Web-based SMS inbox that can be accessed from any browser, allowing users to listen to voice messages on the Web, SMS, e-mail, or via dial-in, including notifications, which can be sent via e-mail or SMS. The company has also built an application programming interface (API) into their system, allowing the integration of custom applications, such as user and conversation management, inbound and outbound call handling, and rate limiting and abuse detection.
Cost of the service runs $8.99/month for the one month plan, $5.99/month for the three month plan, and $4.99/month for the twelve month plan, with a $25.00 one-time fee for number ports. All plans include 40 free U.S. text messages, 50 free U.S. forwarding minutes, and 500 minutes of forwarding to Skype. Additional text messages are around 1 cent when purchased in bundles and voice minutes are around 1.3 cents when purchased in a bundle.
Further information on the 3Jam solutions can be found at www.3jam.com. Our next tutorial will continue our review of various service providers hosted voice solutions.
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet Corporation®, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.