Introducing Jeenee Mobile

Jeenee Mobile is a new provider looking to provide mobile services to disabled people. This is precisely the kind of enterprise Dog and Bone values.

Jeenee Mobile is run by Community Connections Australia, a not-for-profit (NFP) with a specific mission to enable people with disabilities to operate independently within their own communities and homes. Jeenee Mobile is certainly consistent with this goal.

At its core Jeenee provides a number of Android apps for smartphones, that streamline and simplify all of the most essential functions for those with varying degrees of intellectual or physical impairment. There is a replacement home screen called Big Launcher, which features only six large tiles, which can each be customised. (It looks a bit like the latest Windows Phone.) For example a tile can be set up to show a picture of client’s family members, who are called when the picture is tapped. There is a button for directly contacting CCA’s helpline, and also sends out the caller’s location to the call centre, allowing staff to ascertain immediately where the caller is.

However, while it was all well and good to build some apps, simply releasing them onto Google Play wasn’t going to achieve the desired outcome of getting these tools into the hands of the most needy, who are very often at severe financial disadvantage, and aren't likely to have a smartphone in the first place. It became clear that Jeenee needed to find a cost-effective way of providing devices and telephony services as well. Thus the need to set up an MVNO was clear.

According to a statement by Robin Way, CEO of Community Connections Australia: “The original concept of Jeenee was to finally offer people with disabilities an affordable technology solution that provides them with increased independence within the community. However, in order to get the project off the ground, we needed to establish Jeenee as a telco in its own right.”

Jeenee Mobile operates on the Optus network, with the NFP feeling that Optus was the only way to go for them, in terms of cost and services. Optus, for example, has agreed to waive all costs for customers calling Jeenee’s help centre. Jeenee is 100% not-for-profit, and all proceeds will go back towards disability services.

Jeenee’s help centre deserves a special mention. Located in Sydney, it is currently only available from 7am-7pm on week days, although they have said 24 hour assistance will be available in the next few months. The help centre is staffed by CCA employees with specific training and experience working with people with disability.

There is a range of Android smartphones available through Jeenee, from providers such as LG, Samsung, HTC and Sony. Each phone is individually configured to each customer’s specific needs (which, as you might imagine, can be very specific indeed). For example, pre-composed SMS messages allow people with verbal impairment to access essential services easily.

But down to the nuts and bolts. How do the plans and services stack up cost-wise?

The plans themselves are a fairly standard selection of cap plans, offering handsets on 24 month agreements. These plans begin at $30 per month for $200 of calls and 100Mb of data, extending up to $80 for $850 of calls and 1Gb of data. Full details are available here. While these plans aren’t tremendous value in and of themselves, they are competitively priced, and the tangible value for their target clientele shouldn’t be forgotten. Suffice it to say that the plans are acceptably priced, such that the good things offered by Jeenee aren’t rendered too costly.

It is disappointing to see that they have retained the standard Australian mobile provider’s clunky model of paying real money for imaginary inflated value. $30 buys you $200? We know what that means, since we’re telco analysts, but there’s a reason this practice is increasingly frowned upon, and if anyone is going to be misled by such pricing it is surely the very people Jeenee’s is aiming to assist. (A far more transparent model is to simply provide minutes: $30 buys you 200 minutes, for example. Real money for real time is an exchange far more people can understand.) Having said that, this model is entirely in keeping with standard Optus wholesale offerings, and one suspects Jeenee had little scope to change it.

Offsetting this shortcoming, Jeenee show a strong and laudable commitment to eradicating bill shock. Premium SMS and international calling are disabled by default. Usage alerts are provided at 50, 70, 80 and 100 per cent, with SMS and data services disabled once the quota is used up. Customers are contacted immediately at this point to work out the best way to proceed. These are excellent provisions.

There are also BYO plans (that don’t provide a handset) on a month-to-month agreement. I admit I struggle to see the value in these, since the handset preloaded with tailored Android apps seems fundamental to the enterprise. Of course, by going on such a plan, there’s always the knowledge that your money is going into essential disability services. On that note, Jeenee Mobile is not exclusive to people with disabilities. Anyone can sign up to their plans.

Services launched last Saturday (11 May 2013). There is an introductory offer available until July, which provides either free access for the first three months of a 24 month contract or 50% of access for the first three months on a casual BYO plan.

In all, Dog and Bone feels this is a wonderful new initiative, and we wish them every success.

Pictures were taken from the Jeenee website.