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Ooma Review: Frugal VOIP Home Phone Service

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Home phone service can be costly, running a minimum of $25 to $30 a month. Once you add in long distance, you are looking at $35 or more a month. Some people try to eliminate this cost by moving entirely to a cell phone for both their mobile and home needs. However, if you want to keep a home line, consider using a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) system; one we have used (and are still using) is Ooma Telo.

How Does Ooma Telo Work?

Ooma Telo allows you to make your phone calls using your internet connection. However, unlike Skype, you still use your hand held phone. In fact, the service is almost identical to a typical phone service, except it is much cheaper.

How Do You Install Ooma Telo?

Ooma Telo is simple to install. Simply input the activation code from the box on the Ooma website, pick your new phone number, give your personal information, connect Ooma to the Internet and restart your devices.

How Much Does Ooma Telo Cost?

You can purchase an Ooma Telo device on Amazon for about $199. I purchased ours at Costco for $179. While that seems costly, and it is, keep in mind that Ooma will often pay for itself in just a few months. We were paying $32 a month for our landline; now we pay just $3.99 per month to use Ooma. (There is a monthly fee of approximately $3.99 for the most basic services; add in extras like three-way calling and call waiting, and you will pay approximately $13.99 a month.) That means Ooma is saving us $28 a month at a minimum because long distance calling within the U.S. is also free with Ooma. Our device will pay for itself in 6.5 months of use. After that, we are saving that $28 every month for as long as we have Ooma.

International calls are not free with Ooma unless your caller also has an Ooma. My husband frequently calls his family in Japan, so if they start using an Ooma, those calls will be free. In the meantime, Ooma offers international calling packages. Using the package, our calls to Japan are billed at .043 a minute. (Rates vary by country.)

In addition, you can keep your telephone number for a one time fee of less than $40.  Although it is a pain to switch to a new number, we decided to do that to avoid this additional fee.

Can You Still Use 9-1-1 with Ooma

I looked into several land line alternatives before deciding on Ooma in large part because you can still call 911 with Ooma.

What Are the Drawbacks to Using Ooma

I have only noticed two drawbacks with Ooma, and one of them is my responsibility.

To save money on our Internet bill, we lowered the speed and quality of our Internet. Unfortunately, this does sometimes interfere with our Ooma phone quality. While I rarely have trouble on my end, the people I talk to sometimes complain of loud static. (You can go here to see if you Internet speed is fast enough to support Ooma.)

Another drawback is that Ooma offers a free trial of the premier subscription for 60 days. However, if you don’t cancel this subscription, you will be charged for the premier subscription every month. It took me a few months to realize this and change to the basic subscription.

With so many different VOIP options, there is no reason to pay full price for your landline, unless you want to.  Ooma is easy to install and offers quality service at a discounted price.

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6 Responses to “Ooma Review: Frugal VOIP Home Phone Service”

  1. Dean says:

    I’ve used Ooma for almost three years now, I actually have two of them, one for home and one for business use. Very satisfied, would buy again!

    If your internet use interferes with the VOIP traffic, some routers are better than others to configure Quality of Service (QOS) or Priority to give the VOIP packets first priority. Check that out, you should be able to work just fine on even the very-low-tier internet service. (I’ve watched, Ooma only really uses about .1 Mbit during a call).

    Some of the premium services are nice, such as blacklisting of numbers, but I’ve survived nicely with the standard service and laughed all the way to the bank.

  2. Glenn Lasher says:

    Ooma Premium user for about three years now. It works pretty much like any other telephone, but the dial tone sounds a little different (higher-pitched).

    The good:

    Cheap, cheap, cheap. I think that there are some cheaper options out there now, but I picked this out based on what was available in 2009, not what is out there now. I rejected MagicJack because it required you to keep a Windows PC up and running for your phone to work. The Ooma Telo (and its predecsessor the Ooma Hub) are small, specialized, Linux-powered computers running efficient ARM processors, and in no way dependent on whether or not your computer is still running. As a hacker (who is constantly rebuilding my machines) and general Windows-avoider, I find that very appealing.

    The voice quality is generally good. It sounds better than my cell phone.

    Supposedly, if you call another Ooma customer, you get better-than-landline voice quality, but I don’t call any other Ooma customers.

    I love the blacklist feature, especially the fact that you can choose what torture to mete out to those whose numbers land on your list, up to and including a number disconnected message.

    It gets you away from the landline monopoly.

    The 911 works, and can even text you if someone calls 911 from your line.

    The bad:

    There is a noticeable lag. I tested this out with a friend a determined the round-trip lag to be about 1 second. This is not a big deal once you get used to it.

    It sometimes stammers.

    If you use a fax machine, it gets super-sketchy. I use a fax machine, but switched to an on-line fax service when I was having troubles with it on Ooma. Yes, I have hit the forums over and over to sort this out.

    It tries to sort out DTMF tones (the sound generated by a telephone dial) in the audio stream so that they can be shunted around the regular audio stream. This is designed to keep them intact (the lossy coding would otherwise mangle them beyond recognition). Unfortunately, this misfires from time to time, and someone speaking will trigger a blast of tones in my ear.

    If you have an older satellite TV receiver (as I did until a year or so ago) that requires the ability to dial in in order to do pay-per-view movies, you won’t be watching many pay-per-view movies, because it will fail to connect.

    The verdict

    I’m keeping it. My wife isn’t overly fond of it, but it works well enough, and paid for itself in less than five months.

    An aside

    Ooma does not use a connected analogue line to make other people’s calls. If you connect an analogue phone line, it is used strictly for backup.

    Ooma have been saddled by a persistent rumour that they do use your analogue phone line (if connected) to terminate other people’s calls. Although this was their practice in their early years, it was quickly discovered to be problematic, and they have moved to a traditional line termination.

  3. Brazen says:

    Check this device out, I highly recommend it!

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833617001

    Bought it for $39.00 on sale 3+ months ago, and costs $0.00 for service! Uses your broadband connection like all other VOIP devices, and sound quality is as good as Comcast’s & Brighthouse’s.

    For totally FREE calling as mentioned above, you do have to have a Google Voice account setup, and as such this method does NOT offer 911 services. Two thoughts though…. you can always use your existing cell phone for that… or there is another pay option in the NewEgg reviews for this device, that only cost like $1.50/month for full service. Apparently this device can connect to multiple services like this with ease. ***** from my experiences!

    Jim in FL

  4. Brazen says:

    PS: I am a building contractor and home inspector and use this for my FAX line. Works great (so far) for both incoming and outgoing FAX from my Epson All-in-One.

    Cheers!

  5. Christy says:

    I have used Ooma for the past couple of years and can’t complain.. wish I had done it sooner since i’ve saved so much money!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    It is awesome, but will not work with satelite internet, such as Hughes.


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