Free Phone Service With Ooma Telo?

Category: Telephony

Have you seen those commercials for a gadget called Ooma Telo that promises to replace your landline, virtually eliminate your phone bill, and give you crystal clear voice call quality? Read on to see if this home phone device lives up to the hype...

What is Ooma Telo?

You may remember that I've written about the impending demise of landline telephone service. With that in mind, you might consider Ooma, a replacement for your traditional landline service, which promises "crystal-clear U.S. calling for free with your high-speed Internet." But is that really true? Let's take a look at the particulars.

The Ooma Telo device currently sells for about $99. (You can find it $20 cheaper 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 USA free of charge. Ooma also comes with basic features like Caller ID, Call Waiting, 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

Ooma does not charge a monthly fee. Instead, you pay once for the Ooma Telo device, and pay only U.S. government taxes and fees monthly (about $6 in most areas). This covers the Federal universal service charges, 911 service fee, state and local taxes, surcharges and regulatory and compliance fees. With Ooma’s easy setup, most customers can start making calls in less than 15 minutes.

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 Telo handset, a battery backup, or the Ooma Linx which allows you to wirelessly connect additional telephones or fax machines to your Ooma Telo. If you already have a phone handset, all of these are optional.

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 $17.99 per month for unlimited international minutes to call over 60 countries. 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, call blocking, 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 $6. That's a lot cheaper than Vonage and other VoIP competitors which typically charge about $25 per month. In fairness, those competitors don't have the $99 upfront cost of the Telo device, but that washes out after a few months.

Ooma does provide emergency 911 service, and if you make international calls, they offer some of the best rates available anywhere. Ooma has been named “best home phone service” by Consumer Reports for several years. 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 Service With Ooma Telo?"

(See all 22 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Lee W
06 Mar 2024

I have used OOMA for over 12 years. I have the Premium service with 2 lines and when I signed up they ported my existing phone number over for free, that was included with the Premium service. It is GREAT and very inexpensive while providing 2 lines and many services others charge extra for. The call filtering keeps out the robocalls. I have my contacts loaded into it and they are the only numbers that come directly through on our home line. For the 2nd line the robocall filters keep almost all of the unwanted calls away. I use the 2nd line for my work from home office. I went through several previous IP Phone companies and for me OOMA is the BEST value for what you get.

Posted by:

06 Mar 2024

US Mobile has a home phone system that doesn't require an Internet connection. The base unit is $89.99 with plans starting at $9.99 per month. It offers unlimited calling to 200+ destinations. I haven't tried it, so I can't say whether it's good or not.

Posted by:

06 Mar 2024

I've used Ooma for over 10 years. Still using the original device, and its so old now that the rubber coating on the top is quite sticky to the touch. The newer units have buttons, not the flat rubberized coating of the original units.

I switched my parents over to it several years ago, and now that they've moved into my house due to their dementia, I hooked up their Ooma device so they can keep their own home phone number.

I configured the service to email me when 911 is dialed.

Posted by:

06 Mar 2024

I have had OOMA for over 12 years and totally enjoy it. I've lived in this house for many years so the various rooms have the old lines and wall jacks. I was able to make use of these to put my main phone any place I wanted to.
Only issue I've ever had is that certain incoming phone calls, I suspect from 800 numbers, go to voicemail without ringing my phone.

Posted by:

06 Mar 2024

We've used Ooma for 14 years. Just as you said, easy to set up. We have 6 Panasonic stationed around the house and they all work fine. We use them less and less with the use of our cell phones increasing, but my wife loves the "old" phone system. We just had our inside of the house repainted and the phones stopped working. The Ooma base seemed to be connected etc, but no signal on the phones. I had Ooma support on the cell phone for almost 30 minutes before I discovered my Panasonic base system wasn't plugged back in after the painting. I apologized to support and was very embarrassed that I hadn't checked this earlier. Support was great!

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr. (Oldster)
06 Mar 2024

I use MagicJack here, and have done so since late in 2019. I get the best annual cost by paying for the multi-year renewal (can't remember the monthly rate this last time). All my calls are to points within the United States, and everyone I talk to says they can't tell the difference from my old landline. I have a wireless four handset system from when I used my old copper landline. When I got my MagicJack device, it took a matter of minutes to connect it to my router and my home phone system, after setting it up (connected to my computer). It has worked flawlessly ever since.

Since Ooma costs about $6.00 per month, when I look to renew my MagicJack service, the next time, if the best deal I can get costs more than $72.00 per year ($6.00 per month), I'll consider Ooma, bus since my phone service are about what they were with my old landline, my only reason for making any switch will be based on cost. I'm willing to pay an up-front fee if I end up with better service or a lower cost overall, year over year.

Ernie (Oldster)

Posted by:

06 Mar 2024

at one time att had a wireless home phone, worked just like a cellphone, but only for calls, included voice mail and other things that were standatd, it was $15/mo, Walmart had the same thing also thru att, in the beginning it was either $5 or $10 per month, not sure which price is correct, but it was $5 cheaper than thru att, i had a friend that i only had their home phone number, was surprised when they answered the phone when they were in FL, that's when he said he had home only cellphone, it's good anywhere where there is an att tower, now days may it could work on other systems, the same way the newer cellphones do

Posted by:

06 Mar 2024

Someone considering the Ooma Telo device to replace the VOIP landline service that they currently get from their cable provider may have several questions that the article did really address:
1. Does the device deliver the standard 90 VAC ringer voltage that phones require and is it of sufficient amperage that multiple connected phone units can all ring on incoming calls?
2. Does the basic unit (without a premier account) send Call ID to your phone equipment with industry standard data format & timing? (I depend on that for my call screener device, which is programmable and better than the blocking you get from any provider.)
3. Is its RJ11 phone jack mounted on something solidly enough that it won't be easily bent and broken off as often happens with USBs and other connectors that stick out of small electronics?
4. Is it powered by its own AC power supply? If so, where in the powering setup is the optional backup battery installed?

Posted by:

06 Mar 2024

Sorry, in my post above, I meant to write "did *not* address"....

Posted by:

06 Mar 2024

Ooma site states porting your phone number can take 3-4 weeks ~~ what are Bob's readers experience with that timeline.

Also was it a streamlined, easy operation.

Posted by:

Brigitte Robertson
06 Mar 2024

We use Magic Jack for calls within the U.S. For international calls (mostly to Germany), WhatsApp is awesome - and free!

Posted by:

Jo L. Will
07 Mar 2024

I also used Ooma for over 12 years. Then the boxes were $200, and the monthly tax started at under $2/month. When it finally closed in on $5/month a couple years ago, I finally dropped Ooma and switched to Google Voice, which is truly free. The box for it at that time was $50, but may be more now-I got mine on Amazon. I've been extremely happy with it. I challenge you to find a commercial phone system, at any cost, with as many features as Google Voice. It also works fine through my laptop or iphone/ipad. I can even set it so my cell phone will ring whenever my home phone rings- anywhere in the world if I'm on WiFi. They charged $20 to port my home number which I've had for 30 years. Plus texts work with it worldwide on WiFi, which is Huge for two factor authorization when out of the USA. Faxing works fine. You can only port a cell number so I had to port my home phone to a prepaid cell phone (used $1 for first month on Boost Mobile on an old cell phone- free port) for a week or so to then have it qualify as a cell number. You can't beat FREE!

Posted by:

frank billleri
07 Mar 2024

I have been using MagicJack service more than 9 years. I did get complaints from people calling me about crackling but when I changed MY modem I stopped getting complaints. MagicJack is $49 for the first year for free United States and Canada.
MagicJack has many extra features that are free.
Go to their website for more information.

Posted by:

Ken Alper
07 Mar 2024

Have been an Ooma customer for more than ten years. Best money I have ever spent. Great service and support. Never had any issues. Would highly recommend Ooma.

Posted by:

07 Mar 2024

just checked with Walmart, the plan they have now is thru straight talk, which i was told was bought by Verizon, not happy with either Walmart or straight talk, the $15 cards are confusing some people bought the cards thinking the cards were cell phones, other didn't know it was thru Verizon until they bought the box and card and tried to use it where Verizon didn't work, where they lived, and of course once bought, no refunds and other problems about 2/5 of the reviews were 1 star 4 and 5 stars had good reviews for the most part, few 2.3 stars, seems like Walmart got taken when Verizon bought straight talk, one negative was that to use one had to enter a 10 digit code, which for some a problem, because if it wasn't fast enough, would get error message

Posted by:

Mike in Colorado
07 Mar 2024

I've used Ooma Office Pro for a couple of years. It's also a VoIP service and it's been awesome! The voice quality is very clear. Porting my business number took about 7 to 10 days.
I'm looking to switch our home phone service from Comcast to Ooma as well so thank you for posting this article. I saw that Costco has a couple of options for the Telo Air 2 unit with either 1 handset or 3. I'd probably get the Premier plan since that includes call blocking with Nomorobo. The only thing holding me back is that I don't believe the home service supports SMS text messaging.

Posted by:

07 Mar 2024

Ooma was a good value for me, and worked well over the several years that I used it.

They somewhat undid the goodwill earned from quality service and value pricing when when I canceled the service. There was no way to cancel online. It had to be done via telephone. I experienced long hold times no matter what time of day or day of week I called, and when I finally connected with a customer service agent, the agent had to read from a script that did not let me cancel until I had declined retaining the Ooma service or other Ooma products multiple times.

Posted by:

07 Mar 2024

I have used Ooma for several years, and it works great. We are from Ontario and bring it to Florida for the winter months. Our family can call us as if we are still in Ont. Much cheaper than traditional Bell or Rogers

Posted by:

07 Mar 2024

Magic Jack has an anonymos call block feature online that you activate which virtually eliminates all spam calls. No unwanted calls.

Posted by:

11 Apr 2024

We took the plunge and went with Ooma. I would not recommend the change, unless you really, really research it carefully, and are sure you understand the service.

The actual calls seemed no different from cable VOIP. However, the hardware is dreadful.

We bought the Telo Box and three handsets.

We followed the instructions to set up, finishing up with the Telo box between the modem and the router, using ethernet cable.

We set up the three handsets and made calls.

All appeared okay, UNTIL we made an International call. Now the handsets, which had only tolerable speaker output for US calls, has sound that makes it appear the other party is underwater and words are garbled and missing.

Also when told to Press 1, it was not recognized we were doing so, so we are unable to listen to our messages without going online!

WE spent more than an hour with Ooma "support" being passed upwards to another "specialist" twice, and non of the three would admit the speakers were the issue. They said I needed to make 5 changes to the firewall, allow UPnP amongst many other things. They did not seem to understand that my router was not involved as the box was attached directly to the modem with ethernet, before the router.

We decided it was just a game to avoid having to replace the three faulty handsets.

We removed the Ooma handsets and installed our old ones and the sound from the speakers is perfect.

It is not clear until after purchase that to get even basic "upgrades" you need the Premier service at $9.99 a month. You cannot even screen calls without upgrading.

We wish we had not gone ahead with this change. We have major concerns that if there is a problem in the future, it will be "too bad, so sad" from Ooma.

Plus, they charge $39.99 to port your number unless you sign up for a year of Premier Service at $119.88.

So for our family the monthly cost, because we make International calls, will be very similar to the cost of cable VOIP, and some months could quite easily be more expensive. It costs double per minute to place an International call to a cellphone. There is also a 15% fee added on international calls.

How I wish we had researched the fees more thoroughly and not taken the sales pitch so literally.

If you search online you will learn that the speakers on the handset are really bad, but we did not know to research about that (now you do). First with HD2 handsets, but also with the newer HD3 that we have.

There's more reader feedback... See all 22 comments for this article.

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