Updated with new deals. The Ooma Telo is a VoIP system that creates a home phone service through your broadband internet. Just plug in your regular landline phones and go. Features include unlimited domestic long distance, 911 service, caller ID, voicemail, and call waiting. In addition to the one-time purchase price, new customers must pay a share of government taxes and regulatory fees that works out to around $5 a month. Consumer Reports rated it their #1 home phone service in their June 2012 issue.
I bought my system in December 2009 for a then-good deal of $158, and I remembered worrying about the FCC shutting them down because I couldn’t believe their business model could be so cheap over the long haul. Well, I’ve now gotten nearly 3 years of home phone service for that $158, working out to about $5 a month. (Early adopters with the original Core system were grandfathered out of tax recovery charges.) It appears now that as long as the government gets their share of phone taxes and fees, they won’t be shutting down Ooma any time soon. I’m glad I spent the extra $40 to port my previous landline phone number.
The best compliment I can give about the Ooma system that I don’t even notice that it’s not a landline. It just works reliably. In my entire time of ownership I remember reading about a few hours of downtime in the middle of night, and nothing within the last year. The call quality is always great, and I can even use my fax machine with it. In some ways it’s even better than my old landline, because I can get e-mail notifications of voicemails and then listen to them on my computer or smartphone.
The “unlimited” phone service technically has a limit of 5,000 minutes per month under the explanation that it is meant for personal use. That works out to an average of nearly 3 hours per day, every day, so that’s close enough to unlimited for me. They do regularly bug you to upgrade to their Premier level of service which has added features for another $10 a month, but I’ve never felt the need to. Just make sure your number is on the Do Not Call list and you should be fine.
One alternative is the Obihai + Google Voice combo, but as of right now that’s only guaranteed to be free through the end of 2012. I know that many people are cell-phone only now, but for many households the most frugal option might be a Ooma box plus a basic prepaid phone plan for under $10 a month. Whenever possible, lower those recurring monthly expenses!
Current Ooma Deals
As I am an existing user, there is a refer-a-friend promotion right now where you can get Ooma for $139.99 + free shipping using my referral code SAD5171. Expires on 4/30/2013.