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Broadband: VoIP

Automobile Journalists Association

It isn’t just a telephone provider, it’s a little box that promises to cut you free from traditional phone suppliers, during saving you money together.

The Consumer Electronics Show a couple of years back

Ooma first grabbed my attention at the Consumer Electronics Show a couple of years back. I’m often angry with my phone provider, whoever it might be, for a variety of reasons that can include lousy service, lousy sound quality, lousy support, or lousy whatever. I’ve as well used about three VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services, with varying satisfaction.

I change providers, only to get mad at the new one in the long run. It seems as if offering telephone service is looked upon by the telecoms as a license to print money, although on the other hand I know of a couple of former VoIP startups who, since they’re no longer around, might argue the point.

Ooma is different, if only in that instead of being a distant host where your calls are shunted, regardless of how the signals get into and out of your home base, it as a matter of fact takes up residence in your physical location, via a cute little Ooma box you hook into your broadband Internet connection.

Ooma’s claims are that the product is a revolutionary device that allows you to call anywhere in the U.S. or Canada for free. You only have to pay the applicable taxes and fees, the kilogram of flesh extracted so politicians can buy votes with it. Ooma says you can as well make international calls for then and there to nothing.

Installation promises to be very easy: "Simply connect the device to your high-speed Internet and your existing phone, and that’s it. You’re ready to start calling and experience Ooma’s great voice quality."

Since all you need to exploit Ooma aside from this the high-speed Internet connection I a regular home phone, I plugged the thing into the base station of our cordless handsets. It worked fine with all of the satellite phones in the house, seamlessly and with good sound quality.

In fact, other than the bandwidth woes, the only real complaint I had is that you have to dial your own number to check your messages. With my  usual system, you just pick up the phone and punch in a three digit code, which is much quicker in this era of now having to punch in the area code with each local call.

Ooma will let you port over your regular phone number, as a general rule. It isn’t free however, having done this when switching providers previously, it’s worth it to keep the old number. Ooma says that if you sign-up for an annual subscription to Ooma Premier, they’ll waive the porting fee.

The usual call waiting

Ooma has as well recently upped its feature ante - beyond the usual call waiting, voice mail, call display etc. etc. etc. - to add the "911 Alerts" feature to its customer base in both Canada and the U.S. - at no additional cost to the user. The company says the 911 Alerts feature "provides added peace of mind because it can accelerate critical communications while a home emergency situation."    

 With this feature, subscribers can enter up to three e-mail addresses or mobile phone numbers using the "My Ooma" online control panel. Once you’ve set up the emergency notification group, Ooma will automatically send alert messages to specified recipients whenever 911 is called from your Ooma phone number. Maybe a neighbor with a baseball bat - or a gun - can respond more quickly than the cops when your home is invaded? Or like as not your neighbor’s a paramedic

Ooma as well offers Bluetooth service, with which mobile phone calls can be answered on the Ooma home phone systems. Ooma Wireless service allows the Ooma Telo to be placed anywhere in range of a Wi-Fi network. Both of these require an extra cost adapter, however could come in very handy.

The company as well offers a Premier service

The company as well offers a Premier service, for $9.95 a month, which includes "more than 25 advanced features," including three-way conferencing, Multi-Ring and Voicemail Forwarding to Email - a feature I’ve grown to love with other Telcos: it lets you listen to voicemails from anywhere you can get your email. There’s as well a Blacklist feature that will block callers you don’t want to interact with or it’ll send them to voicemail. It’s a wonderful way to avoid those pesky salespeople.

It appears that once you’ve paid for the initial investment, which will depend upon what features you order and what you’re paying for now, the Ooma could offer you a way to save some coin and after all get a fully featured phone service. Other than my apparent bandwidth issues it worked fine, and it does seem like an interesting way to get cheap phone service without resorting to tin cans and string.

Jim publishes TechnoFile Magazine. Jim is an affiliate with the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and his careers have included journalist, research retailer, video store pioneer, and syndicated columnist; he does a biweekly column on CBC Radio One’s The Business Network.

More information: Canadafreepress
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    Automobile Journalists Association