Monday, July 5, 2010

Ooma, Free VOIP Phone Service: Part 1


Okay, now that I am all done setting up my new Ooma Telo and have been using it for a bit over a month, I'd like to share info about my experience. I'll do this in a few different posts because there is A LOT to say about it.

Ooma is a free* phone service you can use with your existing internet connection. I put the asterisk by "free" because while you do have to pay a one-time fee for the equipment ($199-$250), you also have to pay an on-going monthly tax to Big Brother. Mine is $3.74 a month. And if you want the added bells and whistles Ooma offers, you need to subscribe to their Premier service which is $9.99 a month (still better than a landline, in most cases).

PART 1: Ordering, Setting It Up

I ordered Ooma from Amazon.com because I love Amazon. They had the lowest price too and shipping was free. I paid $199 for my Ooma Telo. It arrived in a timely fashion (about 5 days). Here's what it looks like straight out of the box:




You get the Telo device, a phone cord, power cord, and manual. Upon opening the package, I was impressed with the packaging itself, and the sleek look of the Telo. I was shocked at the owner's manual. It is very short, and lacking in detail to the point that I had more questions after reading it than I did to begin with. Here's a link to that manual so you can see for yourself. Besides that, the manual is nicely designed and isn't full of editing errors, so that is comforting.

I set up the Telo as soon as I had a kid-free moment. Getting back behind my computer with the owner's manual, my new Telo and two new cords, I marveled at my cord plantation already growing freakishly well without water or light in such a dark corner. *Shrug* The thing must be plugged in, so proceeded to plant the new cords in their new home.

I have DSL for my internet. It seems as though Ooma assumes that most people have cable internet. They don't provide a lot of information on how to set up the Telo with DSL. I found that I needed a splitter (not explained in the documentation) since I needed two phone jacks at the wall (one for my DSL modem and one for the Telo). Luckily, we had a splitter sitting in the garage. I stuck it into the wall jack. I had my modem/router plugged into my computer, but because Ooma advises to plug the Telo directly into the computer for the best sound quality, I did so. So, essentially, my Telo is connected to my computer with the ethernet cable, and my DSL modem is connected to my Telo via another ethernet cable. I was concerned that this might affect my modem's performance with speed, but I have tested it since then and I have not found any speed difference with my modem being plugged into my computer vs. being plugged into the the Telo and then to the wall jack.

Next, I plugged the power cord into my surge protector (or better yet, an uninterrupted power supply, which I hope to be getting soon). I plugged the phone cable that came with the Telo from the jack labeled "wall" on the Telo to the jack in my wall (remember, I had a splitter here so it could share with DSL) and plugged a phone into the jack labeled "phone" on the Telo. After plugging things in, I was ready to get my product activated.

To activate, I went to Ooma.com and clicked on the "Activate" link. I'm a pretty savvy person when it comes to technology, so I was pretty confident that I could handle the activation process. I think I could have... But... The first thing you are asked to input is your activation code found on the back of the Telo device. It's supposed to be a seven digit code. Mine was six. So, naturally, the system could not activate my Telo. Great! I get to call customer service, which, from reading reviews on Amazon, I am aware is outsourced. Yippee for language barriers in customer service!

I didn't have to wait long to get on the phone with someone. The service rep was nice enough, but because of that language barrier, she had a hard time understanding my trying to explain to her that my activation code was only six digits. I tried to ask her why, but she didn't understand my question. She just went ahead and activated my Telo for me from her end. This meant that she input my address, my name and other account info herself as I dictated it. Hahahah. When I signed into my account after I hung up with Ooma, I saw that my address was incorrect. So, I had to fix that. Anyhow, once my Telo was activated, I picked up my phone and heard the unique Ooma dial-tone. I set up voice-mail and other preferences from my Telo next. That's pretty step-by-step and easy, so I'm not going to talk much about it here.

Normally, if you are planning on using your current phone number with Ooma, you have to get it ported and during that port, Ooma assigns you a temporary number. The service rep didn't do this for me and I didn't ask. This didn't make my Telo unsuable, but it did mean that any number I dialed from my phone connected to Ooma had to be dialed 1+ area code+ number. (Note that I still had my landline service and all other phones in my house ran off the landline phone company. If I stopped here, It'd be like having two phone lines: Make calles on Ooma phone and still be able to receive calls through my landline.)

Anyway, I made a few calls with my phone that I had connected to the Ooma device and didn't notice any difference in call quality from that of my land line... so I figured I should take the plunge and get my landline number ported.

Next post I'll talk about porting my number. Fun, fun, fun!

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