Ooma uses Voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology to offer free home phone service by selling its VoIP phone device called Ooma Telo. Ooma Telo VoIP phone service has two big advantages over traditional landline telephone: 1. Low cost (actually it is almost free in Ooma Telo’s case, we will touch on this below); 2. Free call features such as Caller ID, Call Waiting and Voicemail are included. Ooma Telo has earned an excellent reputation for its VoIP phone device performance and call quality. You can search for Ooma Telo reviews Online and the ratings from most sources are quite positive as compared to its competitors.
Design and Voice Quality
Unlike most VoIP devices where the appearance is not a strong point, the Ooma Telo team took the effort to craft an attractive exterior design. Ooma Telo’s size is similar to an answering machine. Its surface is covered in a rubber material that has a nice feel. There are multiple blue LED lights indicating Ooma’s logo and various function symbols including voice message playback buttons. At the back, there are two data ports, one phone jack, one USB port and a power port.
Unlike many other VoIP phone devices, Ooma Telo has two data ports instead of just one. The reason for having two data ports is simple. Ooma wants you the experience the best VoIP performance and call quality possible so the designer dedicated one port (labeled as “To Internet”) specifically for direct Internet connection. With a direct connection to the Internet, the Ooma Telo call quality won’t suffer even when someone in the household is streaming HD videos online or performing heavy downloads or uploads. The USB port is built to accept a Bluetooth Adaptor. With a Bluetooth Adaptor, you can pair your mobile phone with home phone service. Alternatively, you can go hands-free with a Bluetooth headset.
How to activate your Ooma Telo
To activate your Ooma Telo VoIP phone service, you can find an activation code at the bottom of the device. You need to use a PC and go to Ooma’s activation page. A wizard will walk you through all the steps such as selecting a phone number; registering your address for 911 purpose, and offers to upgrade to Ooma Premier Service and existing phone number porting service. After your Ooma Telo has been activated online and all the hardware have been hooked up properly, it takes a few minutes for the Ooma Telo device to connect to the VoIP phone service from Ooma. The blue LED of Ooma logo will light up which means you are ready to make local and long distance phone calls in Canada. And the best part is, you will not pay for another expensive telephone bill again!
Fees or No Fees?
It is true that Ooma Telco doesn’t charge you a monthly service fee to use their VoIP phone service. But in case you missed their fine prints, you are still responsible for paying regulatory fees and taxes every month (there is a calculator on their website for you to calculate the exact amount for your location). For additional calling features such as the unlimited US calling and Call Forwarding and many other features, you need to subscribe to their Ooma Premier Service where a monthly charge applies. If you make international phone calls, Ooma offers either a pay-as-you-go plan or an unlimited calling plan. The charge for the unlimited international calling plan is fairly competitive.
Helpful Ooma website
Despite VoIP has an obvious cost advantage, some landline subscribers are still hesitant about buying a VoIP phone device like Ooma Telo because they are still skeptical about the actual savings. To address this concern, Ooma offers a very informative and user-friendly website that allows you to obtain all the facts before you make your decision to switch to VoIP phone service. You can find out items such as taxes and fees you are expected to pay per month; overall savings by purchasing Ooma Telo, Internet Speed Test (to assess if your current Internet connection is suitable), etc. Simply review the website’s headings one-by-one (Overview, Savings, Features, Call Quality…..etc.) and you will find out if their VoIP phone service is right for you in less than 15 minutes. If you have more questions about VoIP phone service, you can check out What is VoIP.
VoIP phone service limitations
Please remember VoIP phone service is dependent on your Internet or mobile data/Wi-Fi connection. You will lose your VoIP phone service if there is a network or power outage. Also, you must keep your address up-to-date in case of emergencies because unlike traditional phone line, there is no easy way to confirm your location other than your last registered address with the VoIP phone provider. Lastly, given there are many variables that may interrupt VoIP phone service (E.g. network/power outage or any issues with your ATA, DSL modem or even your Internet router), it is not as reliable as traditional telephone (which still works during a power outage), it is probably not a good idea to use VoIP phone as your primary phone service; especially if you do not have a cell phone as backup.
- Ooma Telo VoIP Phone Device (see price here)
- High-speed Internet
- Ethernet router/cable modem
- Bluetooth adapter (optional) (see price here)
- Bluetooth headset (optional)
- Cordless phone with multiple handsets (optional) (see prices here)
You will appreciate Ooma Telo because:
- No more monthly phone bills (pay only nominal taxes and fees per month).
- No Contract.
- Porting of your existing phone number is available (for a fee).
- Canadian phone number.
- Free calls within Canada.
- Free calls between Ooma Telo owners.
- Excellent user reviews in major retailer websites (Bestbuy.ca, Amazon.ca).
- Caller ID, Voicemail, Call Waiting are included.
- Flexible international calling plans (flat rate plan or pay-as-you-go)
- PC is not required.
You might not appreciate it because:
- Cost of porting your existing phone number is higher than its competitors (this fee is waived if you subscribe to Ooma’s Premier Service)
- The cost of Ooma Premier Service offsets the free aspect of the Ooma Telo service (but you get a lot more phone features and you can make unlimited free calls to the US).
- A long list of additional features is available. But, you have to pay extra monthly for Ooma Premier Service.
- Only one phone jack is available via VoIP Phone Adapter.
- Voice quality and reliability may vary due to factors such as Internet speed, VoIP hardware, ATA/Router, phone frequencies/location, software compression, etc.
- Usability is susceptible to power/network outage.
- E911 service is dependent on the point above.
- Not as reliable as a regular landline.
- Not recommended for use with a home alarm monitoring system.
- Security concerns, given the voice data travels through the Internet, the data is vulnerable to theft, viruses, spam, etc.
How to make Ooma Telo VoIP experience better?
- Always use your mobile phone as a backup in case of a power/network outage.
- Get an Ooma Bluetooth adapter and you can go hands-free with a Bluetooth headset or pair your mobile phone so you can use the regular handset.
- Use a cheap Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) to power your modem and Ooma Telo in case of a power outage. (see price here)
When Ooma Telo first joined the battle for VoIP phone service market share, their VoIP device was selling for around $150 CAD more than its competitors (we consider the closest competitors were magicJack and netTalk DUO). Although its selling price was considerably higher than its competitors, it earned a reputation for its high VoIP phone performance and call quality. In addition, Ooma does not charge anything for their service so this feature alone attracts a lot of new customers.
One important point to note here is, it is not completely free after the initial purchase. Although Ooma doesn’t charge for their service, you still have to pay for fees and taxes every month. Therefore, one of Ooma Telco’s competitor, magicJackGO, is still cheaper to own overall on a yearly basis than Ooma Telo. In fact, magicJack is a lot cheaper if you take unlimited US calling into consideration because Ooma Telco charges a monthly fee for US calling (part of its Ooma Premier Service).
Also, Ooma Telo’s call features are little as compared to other VoIP phone providers. Additional call features such as call forwarding, three-way calling, voicemail to email, etc are all part of its Ooma Premier Service which you have to pay extra on a monthly basis. However, it would be a mistake to overlook Ooma Telo’s VoIP phone service because as an everyday phone (no US calling) it has superior performance and call quality. And these qualities are exactly what most landline users are looking for so they have a piece of mind about switching to VoIP phone from landline service. We have to give Ooma credit because it has slashed almost $100 CAD off their Ooma Telo’s regular price. It is now a very attractive VoIP phone option for anyone who is looking to reduce their telephone bills drastically yet maintain quality phone service.
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