Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Ooma, an almost free phone service

I am always looking for bargain.  So, when I saw the ads about free phone service offers by Ooma, I have to give it a try.

Few years back I had the traditional copper wire telephone service provided by CentryLink at around $30 per month.  The monthly fee only gave me local call, no caller ID or long distance call.  Then I switched over to Walmart's BasicTalk phone service for $13 per month.  BasicTalk was a VoIP phone service.  Unlimited nationwide call, caller ID, and voice mail were included in the monthly fee.

Ooma is also  VoIP phone service.  In order to get the free phone service, you have to buy the Ooma Telo device.  The Ooma Telo usually sold for $100 at Amazon but I bought mine on sale for $80.  Although the phone calls are free but you still have to pay the taxes and fees monthly.  The taxes and fees was only $3 when I was using the BasicTalk, to my surprise, they are nearly $5.30 for Ooma.  I just don't understand why Ooma charge more.  Also, Ooma charges $40 to port your current phone number if you sign up for the basic service.   BasicTalk did not charge for number porting.   See the cost comparison at the end of this post.

The hardware connection to your home network is very simple, just connect the included Ethernet cable  between the Ooma Telo and your router, plug in the power supply and your phone to the back of Ooma Telo and you are ready to sign up for service.  You can also buy an optional wireless adapter to connect Ooma Telo to yur router via WiFi connection.  Note: for some unknown reason, my talking telephone doesn't work with Ooma phone service, see below.  

 Signing up for Ooma phone service was also very easy.  You just go to their website, enter the Ooma Telo serial number and following the on screen instruction.  When you first sign up for the basic service, you would also receive 2 months of free trial for the premier service.  The premier service provide you with second phone number, call blocking capability, and other features.   I have no intention to keep the premier service for additional monthly fee after the free trial.

How is the call quality with Ooma?  Like most VoIP phone service, it has some noise, echo and delay, they are more noticeable on some calls especially with cordless phone.   I would say the call quality is about the same as Walmart's BasicTalk.  I think the traditional copper wire phone service had the best call quality. 

In conclusion, if you have a reliable broadband internet connection and can live a slightly lower call quality, Ooma is a good low cost alternative phone service.

After all said and done, I was very disappointed that my RadioShack talking telephone would not work with Ooma Telo device.  The talking phone can make out going calls, but would hang up after one ring with incoming calls.  This talking phone had no problem with Walmart's BasicTalk phone service.  Due to my low vision, I really miss all the features from this talking phone.

RadioShack Talking Telephone
I am now using a Panasonic phone with Ooma phone service.  The Panasonic has talking caller ID but no talking phonebook and no talking keypad.  I think I can use the Ooma mobile apps to get around this problem.  Using the Ooma mobile apps on my smartphone with Talkback enabled, this apps would act like a talking dialer.  

If you have an Amazon Ecoh device, you could also use it to make the call for you, but you still need to pick up a telephone to talk.

Following table shows the 2016 cost comparison between Walmart's BasicTalk and Ooma Basic at the same address.

Walmart            BasicTalkOOMA Basic
Hardware             $9.99$79.99
Number porting $0.00$39.99
Monthly service$9.99$0.00
County Tax$0.13
Sales Tax$0.86$0.31
Regulartory Compliance$1.26$1.98
911 Service Fee          $1.79
Fed Universial                Charge$0.46
County 911$0.75$0.75
State USF$0.15
Monthly Total$12.99$5.29
Annual Toal$155.88$63.48                                                                                                                                                                    


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