Ooma review – a real look at the ooma VOIP phone system

Like a lot of folks who first start looking at the Ooma VOIP phone system, I was a bit skeptical at first. My initial introduction to the Ooma product was from several friends at the office. One had owned the Ooma Hub for about 6 months and the other was just about to purchase the Ooma Core system. Naturally, before I was going to jump I was going to watch and see what these early adopters thought of the Ooma system.

After several weeks and a number of test calls with the co-worker who had just installed his Ooma system I decided that the voice quality was just as good as my Qwest land line. At this point a took the plunge and bought an Ooma. My primary driver for purchasing the VOIP system was, like most other folks, financial.

Free phone service

Ooma allows you to drop your residential land line phone service and provides you with ‘free’ VOIP based phone service that includes free calls within the US, caller-id (number only), call-waiting, call-forwarding, e-911 and internet accessible voice-mail. You can also have your existing home phone number transferred to the Ooma system for a $40 one-time fee.

Note that I quoted the word ‘free’. This is because even the basic service requires that you pay a nominal ~$12/year federal access recovery fee. Overall, I will be saving $40/month by dropping my land line phone! Talk about “sticking it to the man”!

I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase the Ooma Telo from Amazon during the 2009 Thanksgiving sale and paid only $189. Currently, the Telo is a little more than that. The beauty of all of this is that after about 6 months, the initial investment will be paid off and I will be ~$480 richer each year after that…

With the Ooma, all that is needed is a broadband internet connection that has at least 300Kbps upload and download bandwidth. You can still use your existing phones and the phone lines within your house because the Ooma provides it’s own dial tone.

Installation and call quality

When I first installed the Ooma, I used the option of having it configured as part of my existing land-line phone (aka hybrid mode). This means that all incoming calls came in through my real Qwest land-line and my outgoing calls went out via the Ooma system. I figured this would be a good way to test the sound quality of the system. I was wrong. It turns out that the voice quality was a bit noisy when configured this way. There was enough noise on the line that I actually considered sending it back. But, that $40/month savings kept wooing me. I decided to continue on and ‘port’ my existing land-line phone number to the Ooma system.

After the port completed and I disconnected the land-line, the call quality was immediately improved. In fact, the call quality is significantly clearer than a land-line!

Ooma Telo network configuration

My network setup with the Ooma is actually quite simple. All I did was plug the Ooma ethernet port directly into my 10/100 switch which is then plugged into my DSL modem. This means that I am NOT using the Ooma QOS (Quality Of Service), the built-in Ooma router/firewall or the QOS in my DSL modem either. Basically, my Ooma is a peer along with every other computer in the house.

Even with this ‘simple’ network configuration, call quality is great. To my surprise, I have not noticed any degradation in call quality even when streaming movies from hulu.com. This was actually quite shocking to me as I only have the 1.5Mb DSL service…

Purchasing the Ooma

As I said before, I purchased my Ooma Telo from Amazon. Amazon has great prices, excellent shipping rates and a very good electronics return policy. There are several Ooma versions available in addition to a new DECT 6.0 wireless phone that will work directly with the Ooma Telo. Here are some direct links to the Amazon product pages.

2 month update

So far, I have had my Ooma Telo installed for 2 months. The first month and a half were in the hybrid mode and not that impressive. The last 2 weeks my phone has been completely Ooma driven. So far, I am very pleased. The phone number ‘port’ from Qwest to Ooma was flawless and I did not experience any interruptions in service or billing mistakes.

5 month update (4/7/2010)

It has been about five months since I had my number ported from Qwest to my Ooma service. Overall, the Ooma has performed quite well and has provided a fully functional replacement for every feature that we had with our land-line. We still get our DSL from Qwest, and we have not experienced any problems with the DSL-only service.

While the Ooma service has been reliable, we did experience a 2 hour outage back in late January which was resolved without any action on our part. Occasionally, we notice weird screeching or howling sounds (when picking up the phone) or an echo when on the line and in these cases a simple reboot of the Ooma Telo solves the problem.

For my household, the cost savings by not having a land-line has already paid for the initial Ooma investment. From now on, the Ooma is literally putting money back in my pocket. Sure, the Ooma is not perfect and perhaps not quite as reliable as a land-line, but at the end of the day, the few hiccups we have had are definitely worth saving $40/month.

1 year update

Well, it has been nearly 1 year with the Ooma telo and what a great year it has been. NO PHONE BILL! Including the cost of the Ooma, I have saved ~$400 this year alone! The service with Ooma is every bit as good as with a land line and the quality of the Ooma Telo is great.

This month we purchased some vintage style phones with real “bell” ringers. Why? Just for fun! They work great with the Ooma. One of the things to watch out for with vintage phones which are phone-line powered is that the total power draw of all the phones on the circuit must not exceed the ability of the Ooma Telo. The Ooma Telo can supply a maximum of 5 R.E.N. REN stands for Ringer Equivelence Number. We have two of the vintage phones. One requires .8 REN and the other requires .9 REN. In total, our phones consume 1.7 REN, which is well within the specs for the Ooma Telo.

Here are the links to the corded “vintage style” phones:

Thanks for making a great product Ooma!

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