VOIP Upgrade
February 18, 2012 6:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about getting an Obi110 VOIP appliance to replace our T-Mobile @Home service that's set to expire soon and keeping us tethered to an expensive plan. Is Google Voice the best service to go with, or should I go for another SIP voip provider? 911, either built in or third party, is a must.

We're currently paying $10 a month, but the rest of the plan sucks.
posted by mccarty.tim to Technology (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I just made this decision (previously).

For me, it came down to two basic options: Ooma vs. Obi/Google Voice.

Ooma has the feature that it's an entire self-contained system - you buy the hardware from them and they provide the service. This "feature" can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on what you're looking for. The hardware is more expensive (~$200) and you have to pay a small fee of ~$3 every month (basically just the taxes that they pass on to you). However, the hardware is much sleeker looking and the setup process seems much more user-friendly and "Appleish". Their (phone) customer service is supposed absolutely atrocious. They have a community-supported board that seems to be really excellent, though. God help you if you ever need help directly from Ooma, though.

Obi is a little bit less user-unfriendly to set up, however they have recently added functionality that makes it pretty straightforward. The hardware is cheaper (~$45-$50 depending on which one you get; more on that in a second) and there are no taxes (since Obi doesn't provide you directly with service). The thing you're counting on with Obi, however, is Google Voice remaining free. Google has stated that calling will be free to the US and Canada through 2012, but there's no guarantee beyond that. So, while it's free now, there's the possibility that you may have to pay for service in the future. That's one advantage Ooma has- you've basically entered into an agreement with them to provide you service, which they should always do (unless the company goes out of business or something). I don't have a lot of experience with other providers (other than a very cursory shopping around a while back), but I have been totally happy with Google Voice so far.

For 911 service: Ooma has it built in, which is great. For Obi, you have to use something other than Google Voice, since they don't provide 911 service. I'm paying CallCentric $1.50 a month for E911 service. That was easy to set up, since the Obi boxes actually support up to two different service providers. Of course, a disadvantage that all of these VOIP services have over traditional land lines is that they fail if your internet/power goes down.

On the Obi hardware: think about whether you want the Obi110 box or if you can be OK with he Obi100 box. I, too, initially planned on getting the Obi110 box since it wasn't much more expensive and I wanted to have the "best thing." However, the only thing that the Obi110 box adds is the ability to also have a landline connect through the box. So, if you don't plan on paying AT&T/Verizon/whoever for landline service in addition to your other service, there's no reason to get the Obi110 over the Obi100. Although, on preview, I just went and checked Amazon and the price difference is much less than it is when I bought; I might actually spend the extra $5 now just in case I ever decided to get a traditional landline for some unknown reason.

Right now, I have my Obi100 box wired up to the home phone wiring, so it's providing service to jacks throughout the house. Of course, you can do the same with Ooma, but I decided to go the cheaper route and have been totally happy so far.
posted by Betelgeuse at 7:42 AM on February 18, 2012

Response by poster: Yeah, after much thought, I think I'll probably go with the Obi 110, since it's not much more, and who knows, maybe mom will want a fax machine or something.

As for the phone service, it turns out porting to Google Voice will require us porting our home phone to another service for Google Voice to accept us. That's a bit of complexity with a bunch of chances for failure, so I think I'll just use CallCentric for 100% of our calls. My mom can make a lot of long distance calls on weekends, but $0.02 per minute is perfectly reasonable.

Anyone used CallCentric? Decent quality?
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:07 AM on February 18, 2012

I've been using my Google Voice number as my primary number for about three years and picked up an Obi110 about year go to use with GV.

The Obi is connected to my land line (kept for 911 & home alarm system) and two old analog phones. One is a mid 70's touch tone phone and the other is an early 40's Western Electric 302 rotary phone. The Obi does not support pulse dialing, so I have a pulse to tone converter between the WE302 and the Obi. Yes, I'm a bit of a phone geek.

I have a contact group set up in GV called "desk phone" with about five contacts. When someone in that group calls my GV number, both my Android phone and my two desk phones ring simultaneously. I can answer on any of the three devices. All other calls to my GV number ring only the Android phone.

For outgoing calls, I simply pick up one of the two desk phones and dial.

As for 911, I believe the Obi 110 will figure out what you're dialing and route it via the POTS line if you have one.

This setup works impressively well for me.

I did run into one problem which is common with VOIP and asymmetric home Internet connections. If my upstream bandwidth was being saturated, the other party wouldn't be able to hear me. I solved this by tweaking the QoS (traffic management) settings in my router to give my Obi priority. Problem solved.
posted by krynoid at 8:56 AM on February 18, 2012

I have had a Ooma for several years and it is great. Refurb Core units (not Telo) regularly sell for $100 (or less). It also handles QOS so if your internet gets saturated, you won't experience any quality loss.
posted by wongcorgi at 5:25 PM on February 18, 2012

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