Phone service these days seems to be a very hot topic, with major carriers offering deals on bundles that include home service. However, what if you could eliminate phone service and pay only for say, internet and TV, would you do it? Of course you would! Why pay for something you don’t really need?
I’m not suggesting that you ditch your home line and simply use your cell phone number as your sole means of contact. I’m referring instead to a product that touts itself as a true alternative to the phone company: The Ooma Telo.
The Ooma Telo is a machine that uses your high-speed internet connection as your phone line. You simply plug it in, call your cable company to cancel your phone service, and start saving money. At least, that’s what the people at Ooma claim. Having owned a Telo now for two months, let me give you my impressions of it.
First of all, not everything is free. It costs money to keep your current phone number ($40), which I did. Next, you will still have to pay federal, state, and local taxes and surcharges. However, you already pay these fees with whatever phone carrier you choose, so it is not an added expense. Despite these costs, you can eliminate whatever your current provider charges for month simply to have service.
Next, you have to have high-speed internet (minimum 256 Kbps upstream, according to the box) for the Telo to work. Based on what I have read in Ooma’s online forums, the faster your internet speed, the better the Telo seems to work.
I had to wait three weeks once I let Ooma know that I wanted to keep my number, as they informed me that is the length of time it takes to get the phone company to port the number to them. You have an option of hooking the Telo up in spite of this while you wait, but it required plugging the Telo into both my router and phone line and did not seem to work very well.
Ooma kept me informed, via emails, of how the number port was progressing, and when the day came to go “live” with the Telo, I was excited. After getting it all hooked up, an email from Ooma told me that everything was all set. I have been using it now for several weeks and am pleased overall, but there are a few issues worth discussing here.
On rare occasions, the connection does not seem to be perfect. This results in somebody not hearing you for a second or two or you hearing them several seconds after they say something. Usually, just hanging up and dialing again resolves this.
More importantly, the documentation for the Telo is abysmal. All that comes in the package as far as instructions is a fold-out picture giving you general directions on how to plug the device in. If you want anything further you have to rely on Ooma’s website, which only contains user forums dealing with specific issues. If you are somebody that needs a lot of live support for dealing with electronic devices, the Telo may not be for you.
Also, you need a good high-speed modem for the Telo to work properly. I tried using a Motorola Surfboard in hopes of replacing the one I rent from my cable company, but it just did not seem compatible. It works fine with the cable company’s modem, though.
In conclusion, for a $200 (the price I paid at Tigerdirect.com) machine, the Ooma is very good but not perfect. I have no plans on returning it, and it will save me a great deal of money in the long run. Just know going in that it does have its drawbacks.