Dropping the landline
October 15, 2009 8:04 PM   Subscribe

Thinking of dropping my landline, but I'm stuck in the dark ages. I have a cell phone which is great for local calls, but terrible for long distance. Skype, VOIP, calling cards, etc...I am clueless about these things. I live in Canada. Also: I have a central alarm system in my home.

My husband and I each have Bell cell phones and we get good reception with them at home, so that's not an issue. We have Rogers home phone, cable, and cable internet. We really only use the home phone for long-distance calls to the US and other parts of Canada (we live in Ontario).

Question 1 - what are our best options for long-distance calls?

Question 2 - will dropping the landline still allow us to use our alarm system? (Grand Alarms, for what it`s worth.) Yes, I will contact them tomorrow to find out for sure but am hoping someone here has experience with this.

And yes, I realize this question has been asked several times, but I couldn't find any recent questions that were specific to Canada. Thanks!
posted by yawper to Technology (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in Ontario. I have Vonage and pay $24/month. I get basically every feature you can imagine included in that (caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, voice mail., etc. etc.). It also includes long distance calls within Canada, the US and much of western Europe. The only time I've had any problem with call quality is when I make outgoing calls with bittorrent running. If I pause bittorrent the call quality improves instantly.

The other nice thing about is that I have it set up so that if you dial my vonage number it rings on my landline and cell phone at the same time. I only give out my vonage number, that way if I'm home I answer on my landline and if I'm out I answer on my cell. But since no one has my cell number, I never have to waste my cell minutes when I'm home.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:08 PM on October 15, 2009

I use Skype to call the U.S. from Montreal all the time. It works perfectly. I have used the built-in microphone on my laptop, and the quality is apparently not too bad. You can buy headsets for Skype that are supposed to work really well, though, which I intend to do soon.

I have had problems with bandwidth a couple of times, one of which involved me thinking my grandmother was having a stroke and she thinking I was drunk because our voices sounded ssslllloooooooowwww. I was downloading and uploading tons of stuff at the time, though, and I have DSL, not cable, so you should be good to go.

You can even buy both a U.S. and a Canadian number, if you want, so that people in both countries can call you w/out international fees, and it will still end up being much cheaper than paying for a home phone line. Yay!

Don't know about the alarm system though.
posted by nosila at 8:11 PM on October 15, 2009

I do what Penguin does, but in NYC. I even haul the Vonage box to the west coast when I'm there for work reasons. Nobody even realizes I've left my apartment.

But your alarm system.... you may indeed need to keep a land-line for that: the only other way I know about uses an expensive dedicated cell phone that is mounted on the wall. Call your alarm monitoring company and/or alarm installer company and ask.
posted by rokusan at 8:30 PM on October 15, 2009

Alarm systems require a landline.

I've never used Skype to call an actual telephone number, but between computers, it works great.

Not having a landline will affect how emergency services locate you should you have to call them, so you might want to investigate the implications of that.
posted by hippybear at 8:41 PM on October 15, 2009

I use yak for long distance on my cell phone in Canada. I think it was actually recommended to me here on the green a few years back. I don't make many long distance calls, but my bills are always very, very small. I think they have the same rate for calls to US and Canada.
posted by synecdoche at 8:53 PM on October 15, 2009

My alarm system has the cellular attachment. The attachment wasn't that expensive in the context of having the system installed, and the hardware is only a one-time charge. However, there is a monthly charge for the cellular service access for the device to call out if something happens.

If you already have an alarm system, I'd assume that you'd be paying for the wireless device, plus probably an install charge.

For me, the cost of monthly monitoring plus the wireless charge was still less than the cost of the landline that I was dropping, so it was definitely worth it.

On the other hand, if you're on a 3-year monitoring contract with the alarm company, and they don't offer the wireless device, you'll probably need to keep the landline until the contract runs out.
posted by gimonca at 8:55 PM on October 15, 2009

hippybear: "Alarm systems require a landline. "

NextAlarm.com: "Voice-over-IP Compatible!"

Not sure if the service is offered in Canada.
posted by sharkfu at 8:57 PM on October 15, 2009

Alarm systems require a landline.

Not anymore. Mine doesn't, and I'm very happy with it.
posted by gimonca at 9:02 PM on October 15, 2009

I just use skype out for my long distance. $3 a month for unlimited calls to North America and call quality is usually pretty good.
posted by carolr at 9:36 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

One thing I'll note about the VoIP-compatible alarm systems is that they will fail if your electricity is cut or if your ISP has a hiccup. Most alarm systems have a battery backup that's designed specifically to permit sending an alarm even if the power is cut, as the phone system doesn't require mains power to function. If you are reliant on a whole host of networking equipment (cable modem, router, switch, VoIP appliance), then you are also reliant on mains power.

One way of mitigating that would be to put all of your networking gear on a UPS. But that doesn't solve the issue of your ISP experiencing issues. My connection here dies for several minutes every few days (I live out in the sticks). If that time happened to coincide to a break-in or a fire, then the signal would likely not be sent.

Personally, I'd go for the cellphone attachment. Hell, I'd do that even if I had a landline, since thieves can often cut the phone line just as easily as the power line.
posted by Netzapper at 9:46 PM on October 15, 2009

From Gizmo5's(one of Vonage's competitors) website:
Can I use Gizmo5 for my home alarm system?
We don't recommend it, but it is possible. Your alarm system won't be able to make an emergency call if you lose your Internet connection. Gizmo5 suggests that you dedicate a basic landline for your alarm system.
The big issue seems to be if your system will stay up in a power outage: Get a UPS and put the VoIP box, router and cablemodem on it, and you should be good if your provider stays up...

Just bought a Grandstream 486 VoIP interface for @$35 - it works flawlessly with standard tone dialing: I hooked mine up to Gizmo5, which lets you buy minutes in $10 blocks (at $.02/min) , or via a $6/mo residential plan for about 4 hours of outgoing talk time with lots of extra perks, like ensuring that your dialouts work properly with E911 and what not - Which is what I'd go for if I was using this for an alarm system.
posted by Orb2069 at 9:59 PM on October 15, 2009

Skype has been really good for us, other than the fact the computer has to be on to make a call. It's cheap, very easy to set up, and the quality is decent, although yeah, if I'm downloading something and using Skype, the connection doesn't work too well.

So, yeah, for this Luddite, Skype has been a pretty good choice.
posted by elder18 at 10:22 PM on October 15, 2009

I also use Yak Cell to make long distance calls on my cell phone. Pro: the most I've ever paid is about $5/month. Con: I don't think it works in small towns, only places with a number you dial first. And, you have to be able to remember your number to dial afterwards. But! Cheap.
posted by bellbellbell at 10:56 PM on October 15, 2009

On the subject of VoIP and power, my parents in BC have Shaw's (Canadian cable/Internet provider) VoIP service as their "landline" and whatever doodad Shaw installed as part of the system has a 6 hour battery backup if the power goes out, I imagine a lot of other VoIP providers would have something similar available?
posted by barc0001 at 12:06 AM on October 16, 2009

Many alarm companies have very low negotiated rates with landline telco companies for "dry wire pairs" used to connect residential and business alarm systems to their monitoring centers. Essentially, it's a chance for the telco to sell some of its spare wire pair capacity, without incurring any switching load costs, like a regular landline connection requires. A "dry pair" connection typically costs the alarm company only a few dollars a month, and is billed by them as part of your monthly monitoring fee. It provides a 24x7x365 signalling connection between your home security system controller and the monitoring center, without any need of the complications that signaling systems sharing voice landlines require, to clear in progress voice calls, and send security alarms. In some cases, using ADSL technology, dry pairs can even support remote site video and audio links, for intrusion analysis and video logging.

However, this is specific to the alarm company and the monitoring technology they employ. If you're interested in this, you should talk with your current alarm company, and if they don't offer such, contact other area security company providers who may.
posted by paulsc at 12:30 AM on October 16, 2009

do NOT get a magicjack. Mine will garble calls, echo or delay for a minute or two after answering before sending/receiving sound. It will stop working if too many are made/received. Fixing this sometimres requires only a reboot, other times I have to format the 'drive' on the magicjack, run the update utility and re-login to get it to work. Other problems are that the voicemail WILL answer after 4 rings and cannot be turned off or adjusted.
posted by CodeMonkey at 7:52 AM on October 16, 2009

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