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Ooma Telo Review - Free Landline Phone Service

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© 2011 Brice Center (updated 3/16/11)

How To Get Free Landline Phone Service For Your Home or Business

No More Phone Bills

The device you see above, called the Ooma Telo, will save you $60+ each month by eliminating your current land line monthly service fees. All you need is the piece of hardware shown above, and high speed internet, which you probably already have.  With the money you save by dumping your regular phone service, the $209 Ooma will pay for itself in under 4 months (at $60/mo).
VoIP stands for Voice Over IP.  IP means Internet Protocol.  Basically it means phone over your internet service

I love my VoIP. Ooma is the name. 

I have used Ooma for almost 3 years now, and it is wonderful.

You can port over your existing phone number, and it will work with all your existing phones and phone wiring.


  1. 1 How To Get Free Landline Phone Service For Your Home or Business
  2. 2 No More Phone Bills
  3. 3 Quality
  4. 4 Services
  5. 5 Features
  6. 6 What to Buy
  7. 7 Review of the Telo Handset
  8. 8 Option to Keep Your Current Landline
  9. 9 What about 911?
  10. 10 Try It Before You Commit
  11. 11 Quality Issues
  12. 12 One Gripe - The Industrial Design of the Base
  13. 13 International Calling
  14. 14 A note on Bluetooth
  15. 15 Conclusion
  16. 16 Calling Features
    1. 16.1 Basic Features
      1. 16.1.1 Free U.S. Calling
      2. 16.1.2 Bundled calling features
      3. 16.1.3 Voicemail
      4. 16.1.4 One-Touch Voicemail access
      5. 16.1.5 The utmost voice clarity.
      6. 16.1.6 A new number for most U.S. area codes
      7. 16.1.7 Want to keep your phone number?
      8. 16.1.8 Easy set-up
      9. 16.1.9 911 Service
      10. 16.1.10 Landline Backup Option
      11. 16.1.11 Low cost international calling
      12. 16.1.12 My Ooma (web interface)
      13. 16.1.13 Online call log
      14. 16.1.14 Free in-network calling
      15. 16.1.15 Dect 6.0 Support for Ooma Telo Handset
      16. 16.1.16 Advanced network/firewall configuration
      17. 16.1.17 Free trial of Ooma Premier
    2. 16.2 Ooma Premier Features
      1. 16.2.1 Bluetooth (Telo customers only)
      2. 16.2.2 Google Voice Extensions (Telo customers only)
      3. 16.2.3 Voicemail-to-Text
      4. 16.2.4 Voicemail notification
      5. 16.2.5 Voicemail Forwarding
      6. 16.2.6 Send to Voicemail
      7. 16.2.7 Do Not Disturb
      8. 16.2.8 Instant Second Line™
      9. 16.2.9 Three-way Conferencing
      10. 16.2.10 Personal Blacklist
      11. 16.2.11 Community Blacklist
      12. 16.2.12 Anonymous call blocking
      13. 16.2.13 Call Forwarding
      14. 16.2.14 Multi-Ring
      15. 16.2.15 Free number transfer, Handset or Bluetooth (Telo customers only)
      16. 16.2.16 Call Screening
  17. 17 Bluetooth Compatiblity
  18. 18 Brice's Parting Words
  Also, compared to some other hardware based VoIP services, you do NOT have to leave your computer on to use it.

It gives you free landline service via VoIP. However, the quality is much higher than other VoIP services, and truly rivals a traditional landline. Buy the hardware for a one-time charge of ~$209, plug it in between your modem and router, activate it online, and you're all set.  Of course, porting your number will take a couple weeks, but you can set it up and try it out with a number you choose in any area code first.  I ported over my old Verizon phone number that I had for 7 years prior to Ooma. Porting is a one-time $40 charge unless you sign up for a year of Premier service (described below).


It has better quality than other VOIP services partly because it can throttle computer online activity to preserve voice quality. It does this because it is placed between your modem and router. So, if your kids start downloading something heavy while you are on a call, the Ooma will preserve the bandwidth necessary for voice quality (which isn't that much), and the computer will download just a bit slower.


There are two services. Basic which is completely free (except $3.47/month in government taxes), and Premier which is $9.99/month, or $119.99 per year (+ taxes).  Every new Ooma system comes with a 60-day free trial of Ooma Premier.  If you just want free calls, call waiting, voicemail, etc just like your current phone line, then the Basic is sufficient...and free. If you want some extra features, then get the Premier.

I am a Premier customer. The Premier features I like and use are Multi-Ring, Voicemail notifications to email with .mp3s attached, and I think I'm going to like the Google Voice extension (haven't tried it yet).  If I ever get a compatible cell phone, I think I'll also like the Bluetooth connection to cell phones (see Compatibility Chart here).  

As a Premier customer, I also got a second phone number, which I set up to forward to my cell phone, so I can answer it from anywhere. I use that line for Craigslist sales, etc...if I ever had a problem, it's a disposable number...of course you could also now use Google Voice for that same purpose instead. When it forwards, it announces that it is an Ooma forwarded call, and allows you the option of answering, or sending to voicemail.

You can also get additional numbers beyond that for $5 ea., and you can map all of the additional numbers to specific Telo handsets (purchase separately). For instance, you could have a separate number for each person in the house, and it would ring on just their handset.

The older Ooma device is the Hub/Scout product line. Don't bother. Just get the newer device, which is the Telo product line.  I started with a Hub/Scout combo, and recently upgraded to the Telo system, and the voice quality seems a bit better, even though the Hub/Scout voice quality was pretty darn good.  Honestly, I liked the cosmetic and user interface design of the Hub better than the Telo, but again, I would still recommend you buy the newer Telo design for the voice quality.  See my comments here about the design.


The Telo device alone will plug into your house lines and support your existing phones, like your brand new Panasonic Cordless Phone that you chose with my Buying Guide. If you have the Premier service, you can also buy the Ooma Bluetooth adapter, and answer your cell calls on your home phones (Bluetooth connection from cell to Telo; still uses cell minutes, but you don't have to run for it, and you can use your nicer handsets). You can also opt for the Telo handset, which lets you take advantage of other Ooma Premier features like instant second line.

At the bottom of this article is the Ooma calling features list. You'll notice toward the bottom of that list are the Ooma Premier features. The Basic "normal" free features at the top are free (voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, etc), but the Ooma Premier features cost $10/month, only if you want to add them. Some of the Premier features I use are the multi-ring, and instant second line, which, as I mentioned above, I combine and use by giving out the secondary number on Craigslist and such, so I don't have to give out my cell #, but it still rings through to the cell, so I can answer it during the work day.

The base unit, acts like an answering machine in that you can listen to your voicemails directly through the speaker on the unit. You can also access your voicemails remotely on the web, and can get an email notification with or without an .mp3 of the message attached when you get a new message. They also have a cell phone text message notification option.  I love the email notification with .mp3 attachments of the actual voicemails.  I have it sent to my work email, and I can easily listen to my new voicemails right from my inbox without even going to the Ooma web interface.  Efficiency.  Love it.

What to Buy

To get started, you must have a Telo base.  They tell you that you have to buy the additional Telo handsets, which you do if you want to use the Premier features like the second line.  However, if you aren't using the Premier features, then you don't need their handset...just use your current phones on your current wiring. 

I just plugged my Telo base unit directly into one of my wall phone jacks with a splitter, and it distributes to all the phones around my house with no problem. Ends up distributing around the house just like a regular landline.

I did go into the phone company's outside hookup box attached to my house and unplugged the line coming in from the street (even though it is technically already "disconnected"). That will be certain to avoid any potential issues with any stray signals or voltage coming in from the street. It took 2 mins to unplug it.  Just find the box on the outside of your house, open it, and unplug the connector(s) inside.  In mine, the connectors were just regular phone line connectors like you use to plug your phone in the wall inside your house.  Easy.

Again, If you are only going for the basic service (not Ooma Premier), then you DON'T need the Ooma Telo Handset. You only need those if you are paying for the Ooma Premier features because they are required to properly use the second line features.

Review of the Telo Handset

Well, as much as I love my Ooma Telo and the overall Ooma service, I'm not too thrilled with the Ooma Telo Handset.  The display is dim, and small, there's no headset jack (see here why I love headset jacks).  Additonally, there's no belt clip, and it feels slow to navigate through the menus.  Honestly, I don't use it much since I prefer to use a phone with a headset.  One of these days I'll get around to testing it in more detail, and post my full review.  For now, I don't really recommend it unless you are getting the Premier service and want to fully use the second line feature.

Option to Keep Your Current Landline

There is also the option to keep your traditional landline as a backup, and integrate it with the Ooma if you want. Theoretically, this would allow you to reduce your Verizon (or other carrier) plan down to a local plan, and then the Ooma automatically kicks in for long-distance calls. It would also be good during power outages assuming your traditional landline is still functional.  Personally, I found that Verizon wasn't that much cheaper even for the most basic plan, and in case of power outages, I still have my cell (and half the time my old Verizon phone would go down when the power went out anyway), so I just dumped my traditional landline.

What about 911?

The Ooma comes with free e-911 service, which does transmit the address you give to Ooma, so you don't really need to keep your landline for that, but when the power goes out, so does the Ooma (unless you have a generator or battery backup....also assuming your Internet provider is still up…I’m going to test this someday).  The address you have on record with Ooma determines what local 911 center your call is routed to, and is also the address that is displayed to the 911 call center.  Therefore, if you move, it is essential that you update your address with Ooma.

Try It Before You Commit

When I first got the Ooma, I was skeptical.  So, I decided to temporarily keep my traditional landline for a month so I could test the Ooma before fully committing.  I just chose a different number for my Ooma, and just started using it anytime I placed a call.  I had my wife call me at work so I could listen to it on the other end.  After trying out the Ooma for a month to confirm quality and reliability, I just ported my Verizon number, and canceled my Verizon service that used to cost me nearly $60/month.  That is a good strategy if you are aren’t sure you want to fully commit yet. Just keep your regular landline, get an Ooma, pick a phone number for it, and use it to make all of your calls for a month. If you like it, then port your number over, and cancel your regular landline, and if not, return the Ooma.

Ooma Customer Support

Phone: 1-888-711-OOMA (6662)
Monday-Friday 7am-7pm PST
Saturday-Sunday 8am-5pm PST

Quality Issues

If you do have any call quality issues, be sure to call the Ooma Customer Support about it. ►  They can almost always solve the issue for you permanently. Sometimes it is just a matter of them configuring the routing of your call to a specific phone number a different way. If it’s a difficult issue, they will actually escalate the issue to their internal Engineering Department, who actually does something about it…Ooma Customer Service is awesome.

A tip, though.  When you do call Ooma Customer Service, call from your cell phone, or some other phone.  They sometimes ask you to reboot the device, and/or your modem and router, and obviously you can't be talking on the Ooma while rebooting it.

I've only had a couple types quality issues in my 2 years of ownership.  The most common is where your outgoing voice seems choppy to the person on the other end.  It really doesn't happen very often.  Maybe once every few months.  And it is usually very quickly solved by simply hanging up and calling back.  Usually, just a poor connection, which also sometimes happens with traditional landlines.  If that doesn't solve it, and it happens when calling a specific phone number, then it might be how Ooma's servers are routing your call to that specific number.  Or they might have you configure your QoS (Quality of Service).  Basically, that sets how much bandwidth your Ooma is allowed to reserve for itself to maintain voice quality.  A quick call to Ooma Service will solve your issue. 

If you notice the outgoing choppiness issue with ALL calls, then it's likely your Internet Service Provider (ISP) that you need to call.  I use Comcast.  A couple months after I got the Ooma, I started having all my calls with outbound choppiness.  I called Ooma, and they very kindly went through some troubleshooting, but then suggested I call Comcast, and call them back if I couldn't get resolution.  I called Comcast, and sure enough it was their issue.  There are amplifiers out on the street that help to amplify the cable signals.  Those amplifiers have an auto-gain function that adjusts the amplifier based on the varying temperature outside.  My problem started on a warm day in late April.  The Comcast amplifier didn't have it's auto-gain switch set properly, so it affected my upstream signals (i.e. outgoing voice).  When I told them I was having trouble with my VoIP, they told me that they were also having the same trouble with their Comcast Voice (VoIP) service customers on my street.  After their technician came out and fixed the amplifier, the issue was solved.  I never had that issue again.  Apparently Comcast got their act together. 

Some things to note about this issue, though.  While I was having that Comcast issue, my internet service for the computer seemed normal, so at first I didn't suspect my internet service as the culprit.  Also, the incoming voice of my callers sounded just fine.  It was just my outgoing voice being choppy to the person on the other end that was the issue.  Why?  Well, because your outgoing voice is really an upload of data.  Apparently, the amplifer gain being out of adjustment affects your upload speed because it introduces noise in the line, and especially affects the sensitive VoIP signals by introducing jitter and delay. 

Another thing to note is that this happened with my older Ooma Hub device, not my current Telo.  Ooma has improved the way the audio streams are handled with the Telo, making them less susceptible to internet service issues. 

If you do have any issues, you'll likely notice it first with your outgoing voice.  This is because it is essentially an upload, as I mentioned above.  You see, your ISP limits your download speeds and upload speeds, but they put a much lower limit on your upload speeds.  I think the basic Comcast plan has 12 Mbps download speed, and 2 Mbps upload speed.  Those are artificially limited speeds that you can increase by paying Comcast for a higher plan.  Anyway, the point is that your upload speed is one-sixth of your download, so your outgoing (upload) voice will likely suffer first.  Also, the upstream signals are in a frequency that is more susceptible to noise on the Comcast line.  So, while your trialing the Ooma for your first month, ask your callers to tell you how your voice sounds to them...obviously, though only ask people on landlines since cell phones often sound cruddy no matter what you do, and it's almost always the cell phone's fault.

The other issue I've had is a self-echo, where I hear my own voice in my ear.  Again, a call to Ooma Service will usually get you fixed up. 

One Gripe - The Industrial Design of the Base

OK, so you know I love the Ooma service, but how's the hardware.  Well, honestly, from an industrial design and user interface perspective, I preferred the design of the older Ooma Hub (don't buy the Hub, though...the Telo is better for the voice quality which is what really matters). 

The Hub was just the right weight.  It felt solid, and didn't get pulled around by the cables attached to it.  The Telo is much lighter, and feels "cheap." 

Also, the buttons on the Hub were nice, real buttons that clicked softly.  The Telo has a touch-sensitive surface for the buttons.  Just not as nice to use.  The Hub also had real dials for the volume for the speaker (for listening to voicemails), as opposed to the Telo's touch-sensitive "buttons" that only have 5 volume settings including "OFF."  Same goes for the brightness adjustment for the lights on the unit.  The Hub had a dial, the Telo has the touch-sensitive junk.  Even if they want to keep the touch-sensitive controls for everthing else, Ooma should bring back the dials for volume and brightness!

The touch-sensitive "buttons" are vauge, and for the brightness and volume you have to cycle through the 5 settings in order.  The problem is, you have to count as you repeatedly press the buttons so you know when you are at the highest volume or brightness.  If you don't count, then you end up pressing it again, and then you are a the OFF setting.  Then you growl, and start pressing it 4 more times.  Irritating!!!!!  I like the dials of the Hub better.  You rotate it up until it stops, and that's it. 

The volume on the Telo speaker also seems a bit quieter when listening to voicemails than my old Hub.  And the lights indicating that you have a voicemail were MUCH bigger and brighter on the old Hub than on the Telo.  Sometimes I hardly notice the little orange ► symbol blinking at me.

Finally, the top surface is concave, meaning it dips down from it's outer edges.  You know what that means?  It collects dust!  It would have been better to design it with a convex surface, that bows up instead.  Easier to wipe the dust off, and I think it would have looked a little nicer, too.

Hopefully, Ooma will read this review, and improve the user design of their next model.  Don't get me wrong, though, I would still buy the Telo over the Hub for the voice quality improvements, and I love the Ooma service all in all.

International Calling

Calls in the US are free. Calls to other countries cost pennies. For example, Canada is 1.4 cents/min. France is around 2 cents/min. You just have to either fill up credits ahead of time on the "My Ooma" web interface, or perhaps give them your credit card number for replenishment. However, if your grandma out in Australia has an Ooma, too, you can call her for free as an Ooma in-network call. So get grandma an Ooma, too. 

A note, though: I looked at Google Voice's international rates a couple months back, and they were cheaper to almost every country compared to Ooma.  So get your Ooma 'cause it's awesome, but shop around for international calling rates (Google Voice...hint, hint).

A note on Bluetooth

To use the Bluetooth connection on the Ooma, you need three things:

  1. Premier Service ▼
  2. The Ooma Bluetooth adapter
  3. A Bluetooth capable cell phone and/or headset listed on the Ooma Compatibility Chart.▼
My cell phone is not listed on the Compatibility Chart, and expectedly, I haven't been able to get the Bluetooth connection on my Telo to work properly, but I also haven't tried too hard yet. 

Here's an alternative to the Ooma Bluetooth:  If you also don't have a cell phone compatible with the Ooma, but really want Bluetooth connection to your home phone so you can answer cell calls on your home handsets, consider the Panasonic KX-TG6582T or KX-TG6583T.  You can see more info about them in my Panasonic Cordless Phone Buying Guide.  Just look at the "658" family of phones when you get to my guide.


So get an Ooma for ~$200, try it for a month, love it, and then kiss your phone company goodbye...after you port your phone number, of course. :)

Amazon has them cheaper than everyone else at around $209 with free shipping. Click here for the Telo.  Buying through my links helps support this site at no additional cost to you, so when you're ready to buy, please use my links.

Happy Ooma-ing,


Calling Features

(copied from Ooma information)

Basic Features

Free U.S. Calling

Call anyone, anywhere in the U.S. Pay only applicable taxes and fees.

Bundled calling features

Enjoy the convenience of caller-ID and call-waiting— at no extra charge.


Access your voicemail remotely from any phone or web browser.

One-Touch Voicemail access

Check messages from anywhere in your house.

The utmost voice clarity.

Get crisp acoustic performance with advanced features like voice compression, adaptive redundancy,

A new number for most U.S. area codes

Pick out some new digits for the area code of your choosing. So if you feel like going with a 415 instead of a 510, we’ve got your number.

Want to keep your phone number?

Just pay a one-time porting fee of $39.99, or enjoy complimentary number porting with an annual subscription to Ooma Premier (only $9.99 per month). Look up your number.

Easy set-up

Ooma is a highly intuitive set-up. Most customers are up and making free calls in less than 15 minutes.

911 Service

When you dial 911, emergency personnel will automatically have your registered address.

Landline Backup Option

You can choose to keep a landline connected to your Ooma as a back up option so that during Internet outages placing 911 calls are always possible.

Low cost international calling

Make international calls starting at 1.4 cents per minute.

My Ooma (web interface)

Hear messages, check call logs and control your preferences online.

Online call log

Check your calling history from any Internet-connected computer or mobile device.

Free in-network calling

Call another Ooma customer anywhere in the world for free.

Dect 6.0 Support for Ooma Telo Handset

Get superb sound quality, security and range without interfering with your Wi-Fi network or other home electronics.

Advanced network/firewall configuration

Ooma is a high-performance firewall router, with QoS support, that allows you to setup home-based servers and other network devices.

Free trial of Ooma Premier

Every Ooma system comes with a free 60-day trial of Ooma Premier. Ooma Premier is $9.99/month or $119.99/year. Sign-up for a year and we'll transfer your number for free ($39.99 value).

Ooma Premier Features

Add Ooma Premier and you’ll get all the bells and whistles, including a full range of advanced features.

Every new Ooma system comes with a 60-day free trial of Ooma Premier.  Premier costs $9.99/month, or $119.99 per year (+ taxes.  Sign up for a year of Premier and Ooma will transfer (port) your phone number for free ($39.99 value).

Bluetooth (Telo customers only)

Link your mobile phone to your Ooma Telo using the Ooma Bluetooth adapter. Just plug the adapter into the USB port on your Ooma Telo, link your mobile phone or headset, and you're ready to go!  (See the Compatibility Chart to ensure your device is compatible)

Google Voice Extensions (Telo customers only)

Experience the goodness of Google Voice on your Ooma system. We've simplified and enhanced the experience, so now you can access Google Voice's Voicemail, Call Presentation, Listen In, and Caller-ID features - all with the press of a button.


Read your voicemail instead of listening to it. Get your messages wherever there's email access - on a mobile phone, portable device or computer. Ooma Voicemail-to-Text service is available to Ooma Premier subscribers only for $9.99 per month. This plan includes 40 messages; additional messages are $0.25 each.

Voicemail notification

Keep up to date with new message notifications that can be sent to any email address or SMS-capable mobile phone.

Voicemail Forwarding

Enjoy the ultimate convenience of having your voicemail messages forwarded to your email. Now you can listen to messages from your favorite mobile or desktop email client.

Send to Voicemail

Transfer a call to voicemail by pressing the “Send to Voicemail” button any time after you say hello.

Do Not Disturb

Get some peace and quiet whenever you want by simply pressing the envelope icon for two seconds. All of your calls will roll into voicemail without ringing.

Instant Second Line™

Make or take a second call without missing a beat. Let’s say you’ve got a teen and they are always on the phone. Not a problem. With Ooma’s Instant Second Line feature, all you have to do is go to another Ooma Telo Handset in the house, pick it up, and you’ve got a fresh Ooma dial tone.

Three-way Conferencing

Whether you’re doing business or chatting with friends, three-way conference calling has never been easier.

Personal Blacklist

Stop unwanted callers in their tracks by blocking certain callers or sending them directly to voicemail.

Community Blacklist

Give spammers the Heisman by blocking annoying, unwanted solicitors.

Anonymous call blocking

Make it so callers have to show their caller-ID in order to reach you, so that you always know who's calling. You can block anonymous calls completely, or send them straight to voicemail.

Call Forwarding

Forward your calls to any number- to your cell phone- so you never miss a call.


Ensure you never miss a call by configuring your Ooma system to simultaneously ring or forward to your mobile phone.

Free number transfer, Handset or Bluetooth (Telo customers only)

Sign-up for a year of Ooma Premier and get a free Ooma Telo Handset ($49.99 value), Ooma Bluetooth Adapter ($29.99 value) or we'll transfer your number for free ($39.99 value)

Call Screening

If you don’t recognize the caller-ID, just listen to their message through the speaker. If it turns out you want to take the call, just pick up the phone.

Bluetooth Compatiblity

 Mobile Phones
  • Apple iPhone 3G
  • Apple iPhone 3GS
  • Blackberry 8700C
  • Blackberry 8800
  • Blackberry 9000
  • Blackberry 9550
  • Blackberry 9700
  • Blackberry Curve 8330
  • Blackberry Curve 8330m
  • Blackberry Curve 8900
  • Blackberry Pearl 8100
  • Blackberry Pearl 8120
  • Blackberry Storm 9530
  • Blackberry Storm 2 9550
  • Blackberry Tour 9630
  • LG 600G
  • LG Flare
  • LG Voyager Titanium
  • LG VX9100
  • LG VX9200
  • LG Xenon GR500
  • LG Shine CU720
  • Motorola CLIQ
  • Motorola Q9c
  • Motorola RAZR V3r
  • Motorola RAZR2 V9m
  • Motorola W376G
  • Motorola W385
  • Motorola V323i
  • Motorola V195
  • Motorola Droid(Ver 2.1)
  • Palm Centro (Verizon)
  • Palm Pre
  • Palm Treo 750 (ATT)
  • Samsung Glyde U940
  • Samsung Moment
  • Samsung SGH-T429
  • Samsung T509
  • Samsung T539
  • Samsung Alias
  • BlueAnt Q1
  • Jabra BT530
  • Jabra BT500
  • Jabra BT3030
  • Jaybird JB-200 headset
  • Jawbone II
  • Motor Trend BT-09
  • Motorola H12
  • Motorola H385
  • Motorola H700
  • Motorola HS820
  • Motorola S9-HD
  • Motorola T305 Speaker
  • Plantronics Discovery 655
  • Plantronics Discovery 975
  • Plantronics Voyager 510
  • Plantronics Voyager 520
  • Plantronics Explorer 330
  • Rasco International Inc GBH703D
  • Samsung WEP460
  • Samsung WEP470

Brice's Parting Words

So, if this looks interesting to you, give it a try.  Find the Telo base here.  Remember, buying through my links helps keep my site ad free, and helps me keep adding articles like this to help everyone, and it doesn't cost you anything extra.