Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ooma phone system

For last few years a company called Ooma has been creating a lot of buzz with the promise of unlimited phone calls within US. When it came out first, it turned out to be too good to be true. They were selling an instrument which connected to your high speed Internet connection and home phone and provided unlimited long distance within US. VoIP based system like similar services from companies like Vonage etc. Difference is that you do not pay any ongoing monthly fees. At least per the company you would get free phone service for life.

Few years back price was bit high. Like $400 for the equipment. Company also went through a lot of changes. Recently, I started seeing a lot of buzz again. Price of the equipment also had come down. Like $200 now. Vonage service which I have had for 5 years now was becoming expensive and unreliable. Thought I would check this out this time.

So, ordered Ooma from my favorite web retailer Amazon.Com. Cost around $215. Got the system in a week or so. Setting up was a breeze. First registered the device on Ooma's web site. That is the activation part. Then connected the Ooma hub to the cable modem and home phone and voila, I have a new phone system and was able to start making calls in no time. Call quality has been good so far.

Ooma seems to have gone a step further in VoIP with several enhancements which make it a superior service compared to plethora of other VoIP providers like Vonage. Vonage which was very good when started has consistently fallen down in quality with unreliability. Ooma also has built in QoS system which adjusts the bandwidth consumed by other applications on your network by prioritizing traffic. So, you should not see any drop in quality while downloading or uploading large files like using Torrents etc. This takes away the need to use Hawking broadband booster etc. which I was using to control upstream bandwidth.

Also, it makes sense economically. Vonage's limited plan was costing me like 20 bucks a month. Ooma will be paid off in less than 10 months. After that it is really free. Even if the company goes belly up or something else happens as long as you can use the service for 2-3 years, you will have made more than what you have spent.

Ooma package also comes with a device called Scout which gives another full fledged line without a new number. That's really smart. I have not had to use it but if you have a need for multiple lines, you can use it. By purchasing additional scout devices, you can expand the base system to have additional lines.

Ooma also offers premium features for a price of around $100 per year. I have not bought any yet. At this time, they are allowing Multi-Ring free of cost. This is one feature that is very nice. You can have your cell phone or other phone ring when somebody calls you on your Ooma number. If they take away this feature, that will be somewhat of a problem but with free calling you can not complain.

All in all, a very positive experience so far. I had also liked MagicJack. But, it requires that the device is always connected to a computer which needs to be always on and connected to the net. MagicJack is really useful when you travel. All you need is some broadband connection. Go online, connect your magicjack, put on your headset and you can make free calls to any number in the US. Ultimate test of this was when I was at Seoul airport last year enroute to India. Made a call from Seoul to a calling card number in US to make a call to India using free Internet service offered by the airport.

Hope your experience with Ooma will be as good or better if you choose to try it out.


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