Best VOIP to replace home phone landline?
October 27, 2014 10:18 AM   Subscribe

It seems like I am the last person on earth to give up my expensive residential landline. I did sign up with Vonage but quickly cancelled when I realized I was being lied to and getting conflicting answers about fees/billing (then I read the horrible reviews about their customer service). I do not like talking on my cell phone and always grab for the landline when at home if I need to make an outgoing call. I want good quality (no delays, echoes, etc.), competitive price, good customer service and reliability (yes, I want it all!).

I do not make international calls. I don't even make that many calls from home. We have a very vertical house and I like having a phone on every level so I can answer calls without having to run up and down the stairs looking for my phone. I don't mind making short calls on my cellphone, but for longer calls I really prefer the landline. Short of buying more clothes with pockets, I think a basic VOIP service is what I need. My sister recommends ITP but she is the only person I know who uses it. Recommendations? Thanks!
posted by Lylo to Technology (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Take it from someone who did VOIP technical support for years, if you want a relatively hassle-free voip experience, get it from your internet provider. If you don't mind poor reliability and tons of technical problems, and lots of buck-passing between your isp and voip provider, then get voip from a 3rd party.
posted by empath at 10:24 AM on October 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I love It is inexpensive, has tons of features (if you want to use them) and I have never had a problem with it.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 10:38 AM on October 27, 2014

I didn't know these existed until very recently, but ss there a reason that a bluetooth phone station like this (but there are many other models about) wouldn't work?

The base pairs to your cell phone, and the rest of the physical phones work the same way, just with your regular cell number. You can easily place them on different floors or rooms,

It's not a cheap solution, but it's a one time cost and you wouldn't need to pay for VOIP or a separate land line monthly. It also has the advantage of distilling two phone numbers down to just one; so if people are calling you they don't need to try and figure out which number to reach you at.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:41 AM on October 27, 2014

There are a couple other options if your main goal is just to have a landline-type phone experience.

We switched from VOIP to a wireless home phone, which is basically a box that works like a cell phone, but then allows you plug in a real phone, have battery backup, etc. It's just an add-on to our wireless phone plan, and we got one of those cordless phones with one base that plugs in and multiple handsets.

An even better option might be a cordless phone set with something like Panasonic's Link to Cell feature (I'm sure other brands have something similar). You buy what seems like a cordless phone with multiple handsets, and while you can plug it in to a landline if you want, you can also just connect it with one or two cell phones via bluetooth, and then your cell phone will ring on your "landline" phone when you are at home.
posted by thejanna at 10:41 AM on October 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ooma is giving me good results and as of now, still costs approximately nothing.
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:06 AM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

In contrast to JimN2TAW, I had Ooma for about a year and had just terrible call quality. I was using it for work, which meant I was somewhat limited in being able to hang up the phone and call back if the connection wasn't good, so I might have been particularly sensitive to call quality issues in a way that folks just using it for general calling won't be, though.

I had much better call quality when I switched to the (much more expensive) VOIP service offered by my ISP, Comcast. It's not perfect but leagues better than Ooma was; I rarely have problems with robot voice, randomly dropped calls, or static on the line.
posted by iminurmefi at 11:23 AM on October 27, 2014

I have have far fewer problems than I expected to running Vonage on top of a residential T1 line (rural area with cable internet and DSL not available -- have heard naught but complaints about satellite internet). If there is a lot of internet usage, sometimes the quality deteriorates. I guarantee you will get better performance running it on top of a higher bandwidth connection.

From experience -- Vonage customer service BLOWS. Fortunately, in almost ten years with them, I have only truly needed it twice. I would absolutely drop them in a heartbeat for another VoIP provider if I did not have family overseas.

Generally, I reach for my cell phone (line of sight to two towers and 5 bars from home) instead, unless I am making an international call.
posted by tckma at 11:33 AM on October 27, 2014

I'm using Ooma over Comcast internet and it's fine, nary a problem. I got Ooma because two friends were using it happily, and I'm happy with it too.
posted by anadem at 12:36 PM on October 27, 2014

I've used ViaTalk for many years and never had any service or quality issues. I really like the call blocking and routing features it has.

For example I have all toll-free calls go straight to voice mail so I never get sales calls from my bank or credit card companies. Security or fraud departments will leave a message. For persistent robocallers I set them to get a never ending ring tone which hopefully ties them up for a while longer.
posted by sevenless at 12:40 PM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've used Vonage, Ooma, and Google Voice through an Obihai device. It all depends on the quality of your internet service. Right now I've got an Ooma and an Obihai on my desk and use them interchangeably. The Ooma has slightly better quality, but I'll probably drop since the Obi is essentially free to use.
posted by Runes at 12:51 PM on October 27, 2014

Best answer: I've used VOIPo for a couple of years now. I chose them based on a combination of a reputation for decent quality, a history of successful number porting from landline numbers (something a surprising number of services can't do or don't do well), decent voicemail to email, and a low price. The service is perfectly good for me - clear calls, quickly connected and without unexpected disconnects - so long as your Internet connection is good*, it should be fine. My infrequent conversations with email support have been good. Every once in a blue moon I'll have to reboot the VOIPo adapter, but such is life.

The service is $149 before tax/$185 after tax for two years, which is $7.70/month free and clear. They often have limited time promotions where they extend the two year deal to current long-term customers as well, so as long as you wait for that deal, you're fine.

*If you have DSL with 1mbps or less of upstream bandwidth, satellite Internet or live in a household with people who frequently torrent, you might want to reconsider VOIP, as the upstream bandwidth limitations those situations can create will make calls choppy.
posted by eschatfische at 1:23 PM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've had the Google Voice + Obi combination for almost three years now. The first two+ years were heaven (totally free service, except for the 911 service from a third party which costs $1.50 a month).

Then, in the late spring of this year, Google Voice changed how they were doing things and, basically, didn't work with Obi anymore. I (sadly) transitioned to Anveo (unquestionably worse call quality and actually cost something); thankfully, I was just able to forward my google voice number to my Anveo number so my home number didn't change.

The happy end of this story is that Google Voice is now officially supported by Obi. It's unclear exactly what went on behind the scenes to make this happen, but I'm not questioning it.

So, the Google Voice + Obi solution is great if you are reasonably tech savvy and willing to (slightly) fly by the seat of your pants. The Obi box is cheap (between $38 and $60 depending on what features you want) and the setup is straightforward. However, you are counting on the fact that Google Voice remains free (or very cheap) and that it continues to be supported by Obi.

P.S. Thanks for taking me on a trip down memory lane to my first ever Ask question.
posted by Betelgeuse at 2:25 PM on October 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you don't do a lot of calling and would prefer per-minute rates, you can pick up a plan from CallCentric. Pay-per-Call for outbound is usually about 2 cents per minute, and about 1.5 cents per minute for inbound, but the phone number will run you about $2.00/month plus another $1.50 for 911 service (mandatory). So $3.50/month recurring cost for phone service plus about 2 cents per minute for usage. This works out well until you get up to over a few hundred minutes per month, at which point you're better off on their $5.95/month plan.
posted by jgreco at 4:53 PM on October 27, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! I researched all suggestions and I ordered VOIPo because of price, reviews, recommendation by Eschatfische, and their willingness to let me pre-pay via PayPal (Vonage and others had no options but to automatically charge my credit card monthly and I am way too much of a paranoid control freak for that). I was really surprised to learn that even with a two year pre-pay you can cancel at any time and get a pro-rated refund. eschatfische, my DSL upstream bandwidth is not quite 1 mbps but I can get full money back if I cancel in 30 days, so it seems worth a try. I will report back on how it works out.
posted by Lylo at 10:54 PM on October 28, 2014

Response by poster: just to follow up as promised, I went with VOIPo (thank you so much Eschatfische) and I am REALLY happy. Great customer service (real people, not overseas call center), Sound quality no different than my old AT&T landline (despite having under 1 Mbps internet speed), better features than AT&T, and pleasant surprise--I can plug 2 cordless phone systems into the modem so I can have as many extension phones as needed scattered throughout our house. It is cheap, highly functional, great quality and great customer drawbacks or trade-offs whatsover. NO BRAINER! I would definitely recommend VOIPo and am grateful that Eschatfische did so as well.
posted by Lylo at 10:21 AM on December 6, 2014

« Older What’s a good article on gender equality in...   |   Silver Lake Secrets (and Echo Park and Los Feliz) Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.