New Web App Allows Free Conference Calls

U.S. and Canadian companies looking to cut costs amid the bleak economic conditions might find some relief through a new Web application announced Tuesday that provides free conference calls for up to six people at a time.

Web telephony provider Jaduka is offering dukaUS, the latest release from its Jaduka Labs initiative, at no charge, in order to "demonstrate the capabilities of [its] applications and network." Other Jaduka Labs offerings include the PC-to-phone calling service earthCALLER.

But dukaUS has some restrictions, so while it may be handy for semi-regular use by small teams, it won't fully replace other conference call services. It only supports U.S. and Canadian telephone numbers. Calling is restricted to 30 minutes each day, and Jaduka is not guaranteeing the service will be available to all users at any given time.

"While we have allocated a substantial portion of our conferencing resources for dukaUS, there may be times when all resources are being utilized by other Labs users. In this case, you will not be able to create a conference," the company said. "This is a known limitation of our system resources and this small inconvenience is a fair tradeoff for giving our users free group calling."

Those who wish to host conference calls through dukaUS must create a user account and plug phone numbers for themselves and their contacts into the service's Web application.

To start a conference call, account holders select desired participants from their stored contact list or add new ones. The system then dials the host's phone, which can be either a land line or a cell phone.

Once the account holder answers and follows a voice prompt, the system calls other users and conferences them in when they answer. Only the host needs to be connected to the Internet.

The Web application -- which is supported on Internet Explorer 5.0 and higher, Firefox 1.5 and higher and Safari for Mac -- provides the host with "mute all" and "hold all" buttons, as well as individual controls for each call participant. Conference hosts can also add more participants to an ongoing call if there is an open slot.

The application has a timer that ticks down the remaining conference time allowable that day.

"Keep an eye on this timer during your conferences and try to wrap up your call before the timer reaches zero in order to keep your conference from being ended by the system suddenly, leaving your participants wondering what happened," Jaduka said.

The system routes calls over the regular telephone network, using the platform maintained by NetworkIP, Jaduka's parent company.

DukaUS has no adware or spyware and the company does not collect private data or phone numbers added to the application, according to Jaduka.

When tested Tuesday, the system worked as advertised, although there was a slight delay before it dialed the phones of conference participants besides the host.

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