What is ooma?:
ooma is a residential/small business phone service that allows you to make unlimited nationwide phone calls without paying a dime. You don't receive any monthly bills when you use ooma to make calls. You only have to make a one-time investment and buy a device called the ooma box costing $240, which you can plug to your traditional phone set and line to make and receive calls. ooma does not require a computer to work.
What is Required to Use ooma?:
To use the service, you only need to have an Internet connection, a phone line and a phone set. You already have the latter if you have a traditional (and expensive) phone line at home. The Internet connection can be your ADSL line.
The setting up is quite simple. You only have to plug the Internet connection to one side of the hub and your phone to another. If you want to get another line and connect another phone, you have to buy a scout, which is at $39 per piece.
How ooma Works?:
ooma is a VoIP service, i.e. is harnesses the existing infrastructure of the Internet to make and receive calls, thus avoiding the expensive rates of the PSTN network. ooma uses P2P technology to channel the VoIP calls, in the same way as Skype does. This is indicative of quite good quality, provided your Internet connection's bandwidth is good.
For the phone number, Ooma does not actually give you one, which means you have to keep your landline number to be used with the service. In case there is a breakdown or a power cut somewhere, the system seamlessly switched back to your landline, and even your 911 will work.
What Does ooma Cost?:
The service costs nothing. You can make and receive VoIP calls for free (for the time being, you can make calls only within the US) anytime and for any length of time. If you make international calls with the Ooma service, it will not be free, since Ooma does not yet offer free international calls, but the rates are very competitive and nowhere near the big numbers of the traditional phone system.
So the only investment you make is the $240 one-time price for buying the ooma box.
If you want more features with the service, you can opt for the feature-packed premium plan for $13 a month.
How is ooma Different?:
There are many types of VoIP services around, and all of them allow you to save money. ooma has the following advantage over the others:
- No monthly bills.
- It is hardware based, i.e. you don't need a computer to use the service, only the phone that is connected to the hub.
- It allows free calls not only to other Ooma users, but to any other fixed or mobile phone.
- Free calls (within the US) to any user, not just ooma users.
- Allows 3-way conferencing.
- Has an inbuilt answering machine for voicemail.
- Has 911.
- Nice-looking hardware.
- Instant Second Line - this feature gives each subscriber a second line.
- Expensive hardware to buy ($240).
- Free calls limited only to the US.
- No number given upon subscription.
- Service not available to people outside the US.
ooma hardware works only with the ooma service. This fact goes into apprehending an eventual going down of the company or service (be ensured by the way that there is absolutely no indication of such possibility, but rather of its contrary!). If this happens, subscribers will be left with pieces of useless and expensive hardware.
Some other issues also raise the obstacle's height, like what if the voice quality degrades with increasing number of users; or for how long will the service remain free.
A second thought makes some balance in the issue. Consider paying a company like Vonage service for two years at $24 per month. This would amount to nearly $600, excluding the other costs associated to the service like subscription cost, hardware cost etc. So if ooma stands firm for at least two years, you win as a subscriber.
Speaking of this, ooma as a company seems to be quite strong. They have been working on the project since 2005, and all indicates that there are good days ahead for it. Especially during these times of economic challenge, the no-monthly bill formula seems to suit many.