April 28, 2009 at 9:37 pm Leave a comment

Ooma arrived.  (www.ooma.com)

For those who don’t know, it’s a $209 (from Amazon) VoIP kit, which lets you set up a VoIP phone system at your home and use it for free, unlimited voice calling around the US.  (Technically, their website says it’s 3000 minutes per month, but they claim to have never canceled a residential customer for going over that limit.)

The trick with consumer VoIP has always been prioritization of the traffic.  Systems like MagicJack rely on the end user configuring their routers properly to prioritize their traffic.  This is complicated, as every router maker has their own web interface and settings to worry with, assuming the router has the capability to prioritize traffic at all.  Ooma takes care of this by placing their device between your Cable/DSL modem and your router, so it can handle the traffic shaping itself, being sure to keep enough bandwidth available for VoIP services when they are in use.  (According to what I’ve read, their traffic shaping only seems to be effective when on a call.)  If you are uncomfortable with this setup, note that you can also set the Ooma hardware up behind your router, but then you have to get everything set up on your router to properly prioritize things.  Doing it the Ooma way should make things easier.

At any rate, it’s very easy to set up, but if you are a nerd like me, you’ll want to set it up in DMZ mode, so your router will get all incoming packets except the ones destined for your Ooma box.  (That way, your port forwards will continue to work, etc.)  Just search their forum and you’ll find out how to do that easily enough.

Anyhow, call quality isn’t quite as good as a landline, in my opinion, though the quality does sound better when you dial *99 before a call (which basically turns off compression).  I don’t know if they will ever give us a quality selection option, but if they do, I’d set it to that level of quality all the time.  (It’s only 90K of bandwidth, vs. the default of 30K)

Anyhow, I’ve officially taken down my Askozia box that I previously used to get nearly free phone service.  I chose to get rid of it because of the lack of E911 service with my selected provider, and the fact that connectivity to both my outgoing and incoming providers wasn’t very good.  This means that calls could work and sound fine one day, while on others I might not even receive incoming calls, or not be able to make outgoing calls.  So far, Ooma has had none of the reliability issues, only a little in the way of call quality problems.

What does set it apart from my Askozia setup is the nice Ooma hardware (which includes dedicate buttons to play back voice mail, etc.) and the general ease of use.  It’s actually a service that most anyone who can set up a home router can probably get working for their home phone service.  They also offer some bonus features for a small monthly fee (though I’m sticking with the free service).  I’ll try to post back after using it for a month or two, but I can honestly say that I’m already using my phone for outgoing calls more than I usually did with my old setup.  (Since I paid for outgoing calls with my old setup)  And, it is kind of nice being able to just pick up a phone around the house and dial out without worrying about paying for a call.


Entry filed under: General, Networking.

Badaboom Three weeks with Ooma

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