Free Phone Calls With Ooma?

Category: Telephony

Have you seen those TV commercials for an odd-sounding gadget called Ooma that promises to virtually eliminate your phone bill? Read on to see if this device lives up to the hype...

What is Ooma?

Ooma is a replacement for your traditional landline service, and it promises "crystal-clear U.S. calling for free with your high-speed Internet and regular home phone." But is that really true? Let's take a look at the particulars.

The Ooma Telo device currently sells for about $149 on Amazon. It’s dead simple to set up. Just plug the device into a port on your home internet router (or directly into your cable or DSL modem). Plug a regular phone into the phone jack on the Telo. Ooma is a "VoIP" service, which means your phone calls will travel over the Internet, rather than the public landline telephone wires. So you will need a reliable high-speed Internet connection to use the service.

Go to Ooma’s Web site to set up your account and get your Ooma telephone number. You’ll have to provide your name, street address for E911 purposes, and a credit card number for billing. You can now call any number in the U. S. free of charge. Ooma also comes with basic features like number-only Caller ID and voicemail. There is also a mobile app for iOS and Android devices that lets you use your Ooma account over WiFi or mobile data services.
Ooma Telo - Free Phone Calls

Want more options for free phone calls? See my ebook How To Make Free Phone Calls on Amazon.

Ooma does not charge a monthly fee. Instead, you pay once for the Ooma device, and pay only U.S. government taxes and fees monthly (about $3.50 in most areas). This covers the Federal universal service charges, 911 service fee, state and local taxes, surcharges and regulatory and compliance fees.

It’s possible to get Ooma dialtone on all of the phone jacks throughout your home. Doing so requires disconnecting your home wiring from the phone company’s network, but Ooma tech support can walk you through that or you can hire a contractor to do it. Note that if you receive DSL Internet service, you will have to get the phone company to provide it over a “dry wire” that carries DSL only and connects only to your router, not the house wiring.

Cheap, But Not Quite Free

In addition to the one-time cost of the Ooma Telo device, there are a few other things that you may need to pay for with Ooma service. There are optional Ooma Telo accessories such as a WiFi adapter, Bluetooth adapter, and Telo handsets. In most cases, you can port an existing number to Ooma for a one-time fee of $39.95. International calls can be made a la carte, i. e., 1.4 cents per minute to Canada; or you can pay $9.99 per month for 1,000 international minutes to call over 60 countries. At just one cent per minute, you probably won't find a better deal on international calling.

An Ooma Premier account costs an additional $9.99 per month or $119.99 per year. It includes a second line and call-waiting feature; three-way conferencing; multi-ringing or call-forwarding to multiple other phone numbers; Google Voice extensions; and free calling to Canada. The annual fee option includes one free number porting (normally $39.95). The Premier plan’s enhanced voicemail includes voicemail-to-text, Caller ID, number-blocking, and other handy features.

So while it's not exactly true that Ooma offers 100% free calling, once you purchase the Ooma Telo device, you can get away pretty darn cheap. If your calls are all within the USA, and you don't need any of the optional features mentioned above, your monthly cost drops to around $3.50. That's a lot cheaper than Vonage, Phone Power and other VoIP competitors which typically charge about $25 per month. In fairness, those competitors don't have the $149 upfront cost of the Telo device.

Ooma does provide emergency 911 service, and if you make international calls, they offer some of the best rates available anywhere. Ooma was named “best home phone service” by Consumer Reports magazine in 2011 and 2012. That’s based on reported overall customer satisfaction. It’s certainly a top-tier option for home VoIP service.

Have you tried Ooma or some other VoIP service as a replacement for your home phone service? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Free Phone Calls With Ooma?"

(See all 35 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Kit Kimes
29 Oct 2012

Although I've known about Ooma for a few years, I've never tried it myself. I have used MagicJack so I'm familiar with VoIP and it's limitations.

In addition, you didn't really answer the question 'does it live up to its hype?'. It seems to have some advantages (on paper) over other similar services. What I do like is that Ooma reserves the bandwidth it needs to make a quality call. It can't be overpowered by other things using bandwidth such as streaming video. That feature alone makes it worth the money I think.

If you watch the 'deal of the day' sites, you will see refurbished Ooma units on there for pretty good prices every once in a while.

Posted by:

Don Potts
29 Oct 2012

How does this compare w/ Skype ??

Posted by:

29 Oct 2012

Can Ooma handle ADT or similar "home watch" systems?

Posted by:

29 Oct 2012

We have been using Ooma for about 5 months now. No problems with their service at all. We have the basic service and we ported our old number because I use it for my business and didn't want to hassle with customers getting a new number. Otherwise we probably would not have worried about keeping the old number.

We pay a few cents over $4/month for taxes. That is it. Considering that our old service cost us over $50/month I am ecstatic. You can do the math but it has already paid for itself. As far as reliability-it is as reliable as your IP. We have a slight lag in the conversation and that is the only downside. I can put up with that considering the savings. I have used and received faxes and talked on the phone while there being 3-4 other computers on the router.

All in all it is worth it. Go for it.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2012

Calling phones from gmail is free for domestic calls with no upfront charge.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2012

Been using Ooma for over a year. Previously used Vonage. No comparison! Oooma does a much better job. Absolutely no complaints, except for the Ooma handset. Very poorly designed compared to my Uniden handsets. Love that 3.50 per month telephone bill, though.

Posted by:

Phil Reed
29 Oct 2012

I've been using Ooma for about 18 months now after reading about it in Consumer Reports. Before that I had tried Magic Jack in an attempt to get away from paying for my Verizon home phone with all the taxes - about $37 a month. MJ was a disaster and thus I returned the unit for a refund.

Before buying my Ooma unit at Costco at a substantial discount at the time, I had to make sure Ooma would work with Google Voice. The Web site said it would & it does.

I got their TP handset from Ooma for free since it was offered at the time I signed up for the service. This allows me to use the Premier service as mentioned with the many features described above, but I mainly like the second phone line & conferencing capability. I was also able to sign up for the Premier Service at the same time for $99 limited time offer for a year of service.

What I couldn't get to work was my fax machine working over the Internet through Ooma. I worked it for many hours, finally bought a replacement All-In-One printer/scanner/copier/fax machine that was advertised to work on digital lines. Still couldn't work it out to get a fax to work, so I gave up.

I did have to go to cellular service for my home security alarm system, since the device the company installed to work over the Internet kept failing to connect with the remote station through the VoIP. But that's probably best in that any buglar can find your point of entry for your landline system to your home and cut it, thus preventing those emergency calls going to your Central monitoring station.

Ooma will pay for itself after so many months depending on the taxes you pay each month (mine is $4.50 right now). And it's a great system. I don't understand why someone would pay the $25/mo. for Vonage, especially after all the gripes one can read about for the system and their horrible customer service.

Posted by:

Florida Surfer
29 Oct 2012

I've been an Ooma customer for over 2 years. When using it over cable IP, there were a few (very few) calls with voice distortion. Had calls dropped twice.

About 6 months ago I changed to Verizon FIOS. It more than doubled my net connection speed. Since then, Ooma calls have been uniformly excellent. The only dropped calls are from a friend whose cell phone battery can't charge completely. But that's obviously not an Ooma problem.

My decision to switch to Ooma was delayed a long time due to their dumb-sounding company name. (How can a company with such a name offer reliable, professional service, I thought.) Now, however, after using Ooma for about 1 1/2 years, I'm completely satisfied.

Because we got many unwanted calls (unfortunately the national "do not call" list doesn't block EVERY nuisance call), I signed up for Ooma's Premier service. It provides, among other things, the ability to enter phone numbers on a list which will cause the caller to hear endless ringing (which doesn't ring my phone), or you can choose to send the familiar 3-tone "no longer in service" signal. That signal, I'm told, causes robocall computers to automatically eliminate your phone number from their lists, and also of course eliminates live calls after the caller hears it once or twice.

Posted by:

30 Oct 2012

Cant't see using Ooma. Been using Majic Jack for 5 years now. Works very well for calls anywhere in North America and you can take it with you and call home from anywhere with internet service. You can use any phone cordless or wired, or hook it into your home wiring instead of your landline. All for the low yearly (or 3 year even lower)fee with no monthly fee. Customer service is very poor, but you really don't need it much. Very reliable, very few dropped calls or interferance.

Posted by:

30 Oct 2012

I have an older Magic Jack and I found that you can use it with google Voice for no charge, works very well and I haven't payed anything for over a year. Got a Google Voice Number in my local area code, 911 is included.

Posted by:

30 Oct 2012

I am a loyal Vonage customer. I have been using it without ANY problems for many years.

I have seen where lots of people knock Vonage for various reasons, but for me it works great. Their unlimited plan includes calls to various European countries and my wife calls her mother and her sister every weekend (for no extra cost) She can also do it from her cell phone which is listed as an extension, again it costs nothing extra and that is a really slick feature.

There are cheaper companies for US only plans, but if you want a service that has plenty of features including the ability to call select countries at no charge and to add a cell phone to your plan for making calls then Vonage is the way to go.

Posted by:

30 Oct 2012

I've been completely happy using an Obi100 box and Google Voice. Quality better than and cheaper than the $250 annually cost for their service. The $40 Obi100 paid for itself after 4 months. I also like the transcript of messages service by Google Voice.

Posted by:

30 Oct 2012

I guess, I don't get it! WHO needs another so called land line? It's like that is so much 1990!
With cell phone packages at unlimited for 100 bucks a month anywhere U.S call and text why do we need another 'something"
I have a land line, I have Skype, I have Magic Jack! yet I find my self standing by all 3 on my cell phone!
NOW if your rellies's live in another country, than maybe! But you say "this ain't free either!

Posted by:

Kit Kimes
30 Oct 2012

I mentioned earlier that Ooma pops up on the deal of the day sites sometimes. Sure enough, it is featured today (10/30) on Woot! ( refurbished for $99.99. These units are not considered used and do not have an additional charge to connect them.

Posted by:

30 Oct 2012

I have the old MagicJack and I am pleased with it. Occasionally we get a hickup or a delay in answering, but for the money, you can't beat it!

Posted by:

30 Oct 2012

I've had Ooma for almost two years and am extremely happy with it. I had been paying about $40.00 a month and now pay just under $5.00 monthly, including unlimited US long distance, so it paid for itself very quickly. Porting my old number took a day or two but was easy and the Ooma staff was helpful.

One of the best features was being able to get Ooma service in every jack in the house - by disconnecting the old phone company line into the house and then plugging the Ooma unit into any jack, it activates the other jacks.

The service was out once for a few hours in the summer of 2011 but otherwise has been crystal clear and very reliable. Ooma has saved me plenty of money and I recommend it

Posted by:

30 Oct 2012

Try Callcentric. Pay as you go costs $3.45/month plus less than 2 cents a minute. You have to supply your own device, but many types are compatible. Customer service is very professional. Other plans are available too.

Posted by:

30 Oct 2012

Bought my Magic Jack at Radio Shack and they give a 30 day moneyback garantee. Canceled landline 1 week after buying MJ!

Posted by:

Phone system
20 Nov 2012

Ooma is one of the best phone system provider that provides a number of Business or Home Phone System with affordable charges. One of my friend is their regular customer from last 2 years. Ooma's Telo device is really good it allows you to call anywhere in the US. for free, you only have to pay the applicable taxes and fees, it is also very easy to set up and very easy to use.

Posted by:

11 Dec 2012

I have had Ooma for about 5 years now and it has been totally free!! Of course you pay for the initial hardware, but I have not had a phone bill for 5 years. I do not make International calls so I do not need to spend a dime. It has been extremely reliable. One note, I did need tech support initially but I was never ever to contact them. Hopefully they fixed their customer service issue(s). I would highly recommend them if you need a pseudo land line for your kids or whatever.

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