Ooma wants voice to be free

169 thoughts on “Ooma wants voice to be free”

  1. I’m very curious about this product. I currently use a melange of VoipDiscount, Y! Messenger, and Skype for business and personal calls. For domestic calls, they all work about the same. For international calls, there’s a big difference in pricing and call quality (Skype sounds better, but Y! Messenger costs half as much to some places in Asia). I can’t wait to see what Ooma’s pricing will be like and if the call quality to Asia is any good.

    Oh and Om, in gamerspeak, it’s Mortal Kombat!!! The uppercase K is important…as is the screaming.

    😛

  2. This is really interesting stuff. I’m looking forward to seeing their progress over the coming months.

    Not sure if I’m too late to be one of the first 50, but I just sent an email to the alias a few minutes ago. Let’s see how it goes.

  3. I’m a Skype user as well and I find that it’s pretty good for what I paid $30/yr. I like the fact that there is the “visual voicemail” feature in the Skype interface and would like to see that in Ooma. Can you access the box remotely from a browser to grab vmail and change settings like vacation messages, forwarding, etc? I guess i don’t know enough about the unit to say that i would absolutely need one, but with the right set of features I would be content.

    The only screaming of the phrase “Mortal Kombat” was in the movie’s theme song. I actually prefer the deathly tone of the game’s announcer to get things going.

  4. I’m not sure I get this. If I understand the way you’ve described it, the Ooma box on the terminating end acts as a media gateway and dials the local number over a local phoneline, transfering the VoIP call through as a locally terminated call, or something like that.

    But, doesn’t that mean that each Ooma box needs to have a local telephone line? So, as an Ooma subscriber, I’ll need to keep my local telephone line and all I’m really saving money on is the LD charges. That’s not very compelling, is it?

    Help me understand.

  5. I am writing this, but thanks I don’t want this box. Give it to another sucker who wants it. This technique has already been done and I have $60 box that can do this. If you don’t believe me ask David Beckemeyer. Please take back your heaped praise on their engineering marvel. It is neither brilliant, nor technical nor an achievement.

    You fail to point out that one has to keep the incumbent’s line when you took the effort to highlight one has to have a broadband connection.

    By the way, in my book such termination is not legal.

  6. I don’t fully understand the technology, but my recommendation is to include functionality that will allow users to take mobile calls on a home phone handset.

    I know that you can already purchase a system that allows you to take calls on a cordless phone system, but that can just handle one cell phone. most modern households have a one cell line per person. I have no need for a home phone line, but I do think it’s a pain to carry my cell phone with me around the house. I would like to see something like a office pbx system that is designed for the home.

  7. This is super cool. Free voice calls. I have been using Lingo for over 3 years, this looks like more savings in that direction. Can try it out.

    What about the international calls? Can we make those?

  8. If my calls are on occasion being terminated via another end-user’s legacy landline, doesn’t that give the other user an opportunity to eavesdrop on my calls? I believe it’s trivial to use an induction microphone to listen to a call carried over a POTS line without the callers being aware. While that user might never know who I am, the possibility of my calls being recorded by strangers is disconcerting.

  9. @Josh:

    The induction microphone you are thinking of is the standard telephone connected to another phone jack in the house. The user may not know you, but will know the other end’s phone number. Since your friend is in the same geographical area as the user, may even be able to track your friend. I will be staying away from such service and if known will not accept such calls from my friends either.

  10. I have to completely disagree about the characterization of “voice over the Internet” quality. I hope all of your readers realize that if you use a POTS line most voice is actually carried over either private ip networks or the Internet (yes even if it’s the incumbent). The only difference is what’s it’s called and what’s being done to impede the free stuff and prioritize the revenue stuff.

    It’s like saying “it was a horrible flight” (because it was so crowded” while your boss had a “wonderful flight” because it was cushy in first class. SAME FLIGHT — different experience because SOMEONE PAID MORE!

  11. If you want to make calls to landlines it would seem they would have to have a local gateway to get those calls off of the IP network and onto the PSTN. Perhaps they intend to have their own private network or subcontract other commercial local gateways/DIDs, and supplement their commercial transport terminating calls to Ooma users who have PSTN lines connected to their boxes. Least cost routing, if an Ooma gateway with PSTN line is available to terminate the call it is routed in that method, if not, the call is terminated by a commercial gateway.

    Regardless, for the mass market that these companies need to reach, I believe it boils down to the user experience. Simple is better.

  12. I just read the Mossberg post that Om referenced. It does appear that the key to building their network is to get their boxes out there, with users connecting their landlines so they can be leveraged for termination, creating their own peer to peer network for grassroots interconnect and call routing in the process. I would imagine they have some type of QoS mechanism built into their boxes as well.

    This is not a new idea, but certainly has merit in my opinion. MKC Networks, a PBX provider based in Canada, had the ability to peer their customers PBX systems in a similar manner, and the boxes could be leveraged to terminate calls, but I don’t think they ever commercialized the concept.

    If Ooma can build critical mass and get enough of their hardware out there to create a good footprint, creating redundant paths for call termination by having multiple users in each area they need to terminate calls, the model is certainly feasible. As to how they will make money in the process, I’m not certain.

  13. Recently VOIP service provider Sunrocket went out of business after paying year of service fees in advance.

    Ooma is offering good service but not sure in this market if it survives or not.

    But the initial $399 fee is very expensive for phone service.

  14. This sounds like a cool idea, using P2P tech to toss phone calls around. I’m glad of the advancements made in the internet//telephone area — the beginnings of internet phone calls had poor connection and sound quality, but not so much anymore. Now issues include cost and networks and such.

  15. There will many Indian IT Professional will be looking for cheap calls to India. This will be another area where you need to check out is how competitive rates you can give for international calling.

  16. This is interesting but it seems like Magicjack has more of a chance in this market. They leverage your PC hardware instead of requiring you to purchase dedicated hardware (which can be a plus or minus) and I suspect they are also using P2P routing in their software. Furthermore they have the additional revenue sources coming from the interconnect fees and the ads and don’t rely on any POTS integration. The major shifts in the voice business are going to come from eliminating all POTS lines. Combine this with VOIP over 3G and wifi phones replacing cordless phones in the home and you eliminate the need for conventional switched telephony. The communication channels are covered end to end. Throw in some nice user-controlled encryption and I’ll be a happy camper.

  17. The long distance calls – international – are still going to cost you money, though I bet a lot less than what the Bells charge you.

    I agree with you guys this company’s target market is overseas, but why they choose to go after the local market is hard to understand.

  18. This is just another prime example of gigaom getting in over its head trying to heap praise on a non-starter. Firstly, you spam stock posting about ebay, skype ect…then try to pump this bile. Please, please, you are about 1 step above valleywag here…between you and techmunch, I get plenty of laughs daily. Thanks for the grins.

  19. Russ,

    not all Ooma customers need to have a local line. Some lines are obviously needed and the company is seeing those. They contend that it would be a few thousand phones in local dialing areas.

    If you need more clarifications, please let me know.

  20. I am guessing they did not figure out how the eaves dropping on the phone line would be solved cos they user can split his phone line with a splitter and listen in on any terminated calls.

    What happens when ur local company calls u to complain about exceeding fair use policy?

  21. Victor,

    Your point about voice quality being bad is spot on. I have ranted about this and called out the incumbents on this as well. However, the side by side comparison is that the bells are doing slightly better job, compared to my own personal experiences with voip providers.

  22. Aswath,

    you don’t need an incumbent’s line. There are a certain percentage of ooma boxes that need the incumbent line. if that is not available, then ooma will have their own local numbers for call termination. as for the technical achievement – from a mass market perspective, it is.

    it is dead simple. unfortunately all the previous attempts have been quite difficult for an average Best Buy shopped.

    There are also some subtle differences from PhoneGnome.

  23. If it can do better than Sunrocket it is worth. Most of the VOIP calls through major Inidan Telco’s to india cost 8 cents a minute and haven’t really seen any VOIP hardware vendor doing better than that. If it is reliable and you can carry the hardware whereever you have broadband it is still a winning solution.

  24. Just signed up and confirmed I’ll be getting a box! Thanks for the referral link Om!

    I hope this is good. I’ve been debating going back to VOIP as our primary voice service since we moved from NYC and can’t wait to drop Verizon’s 100/mo BS.

  25. Thanks for the reference Om! I think I am gonna get a box too soon!
    Irony is that I do not have a landline at the moment (SunRocket orphan here), and at this time Ooma really really needs a landline & broadband.
    The landline requirement will vanish in September I guess.

  26. I can’t see the carriers allowing this to succeed, but when it comes to distributing the boxesI can’t see the carriers allowing this to succeed, but when it comes to distributing the boxes to those who are price sensitive, perhaps a partnership with a bank or some other firm eager to get new customers would be the way to go. The partner subsidizes the cost of the box and uses it as a way to nab new customers. However, it depends on whether or not the ooma business model revolves around selling hardware. Do we know how much the boxes cost to make? What’s the revenue model?

  27. Will this Ooma box work over a cable line? You mention the incumbents – are you talking just about ILEC incumbents, or will Ooma service run on a cable line as well?

  28. Om, Apparently for the test period you do need a regular phone line. I signed up through you (thanks!), was confirmed, but then found out I can’t use the service with only Vonage as my “legacy” provider.  I haven’t had POTS for years ….

     Ooma says this requirement will be lifted around September as they go public with the service.

  29. I emailed am waiting for my free phone…I am a VOIP skeptic because I think all voice going over the traditional networks is data anyways. The only difference is that it gets converted to data at the CO instead of at home with VOIP.

    But then again, stranger things have happened. Ooma could be the VOIP break we are all looking for.

  30. The question is how will they maintain the quality of the calls when whole neighbourhood start sharing the broadband DSL line for their phones and internet.

  31. Om:

    I was fortunate enough to get in on the free units…got one of the White Rabbit passwords to their site. Thanks, you rock!

    However, according to their Terms and Conditions, I must keep a local landline for this service to work, contrary to posts on this. Their Terms and their signup pages for this beta contradict each other. The Terms say you must have a landline, the signup process pages say we can ditch the landline after the beta is done. OK Ooma, which is it. Sounds like we must have the landline to me.

    This goes counter to the reasoning to converting to a service such as this. If one is converting to an alternate carrier such as Vonage, et al, we are doing so to drop the landline.
    By their Terms, we must keep it. I had switched to Brighthouse Networks digital phone so that I could drop Ma Bell. My house has never been wired for landline…didn’t need to with VoiP. With Ooma, I’ll have to get a landline installed.
    After making it almost to the end of the signup process, I had to say “no thanks”.

    Michael

    See their Terms on the phone line below…..

    Your residential telephone line must permit unlimited local calling without per call or per minute charges, and you may use the equipment only while connected to that telephone line. You must authorize us to ensure that your residential telephone line is configured to work properly with our equipment and Services or you must undertake to do so yourself. You will be responsible for paying for any reconfiguration charges from your local telephone service company.
    (b) 911 Emergency Calling:
    Calls to 911 will be directed through your local telephone service line to your local telephone service company. Your 911 calls will be handled by your local telephone service company, not by us.

  32. Michael, thanks for the update.

    Yes, that is during the beta test period. The way it has been described to me (and the companies lie) is that in september they have made provisions that you don’t need a local line from an incumbent.

    It is trying to seed about 1,500 boxes that will help over come the PSTN land line requirement. I think they have also made plans to have local number s on tap in addition to get around this problem/requirement.

    Of course companies can promise anything, and not come through.

    is there a chance you can send me the TOS via email. info at gigaom dot com.

  33. Other than the technical first (or not as the case maybe) the viability hangs precariously on a few critical success factors. Namely, the telcos not implementing a draconian short term price war, which they have the stomach for and OOma doesn’t. Also there needs to be large scale adoption strategy and currently this is predicated by a 399 dollar price tag. I think they’ll have to prepop the network a little more than the 50/150 they are on about.

  34. Dilip,

    you are spot on about the pre-pop strategy and i addressed that earlier. i think the $399 price point is not going to work. i told the company as such – it is too much.

    And Ooma will need to convince customers to buy the device. The $399 price tag for the box puts it out of range of people who need cheap voice: budget-conscious callers. Voice, local voice to be specific, is pretty cheap in the US, and that might cause adoption resistance.

  35. It’s a wonderful idea, but faces major obstacles. As you’ve stated in your post, first you have the existing regulatory hurdles; is what Oooma is doing from an origination/termination perspective legal? Is someone (read a well-funded, quite powerful Bell) losing potential revenue? If so, the incumbent response – if the incumbents feel at all threatened – will likely be fierce. Given that the incumbents spend more money on the Hilll than any other industry, this is a difficult fight to win (just ask Frontline Wireless; from a Valley perspective Frontline is formidable, from a DC perspective, their power is quite limited). At least for the time being, the FCC seems pretty intent on keeping the incumbents as happy as can be.

    Another major hurdle is that the business model (if the goal is to provide free/low-cost calling in the US; a different story once you involve non-US calling), is that while the incumbents are slow as molasses, it is unlikely to be long before they finally begin to offer free nationwide calling (or nationwide calling for a set monthly fee, like their wireless spawn). Once the incumbents do so, no one is going to buy a $400 box.

    Maybe the Ooma box/technology/solution becomes more interesting in the hands of Google. If Google continues to drive at the small business market segment, develops a presence in wireless, and creates (for individuals and small businesses) a unified communications solution (fixed-mobile conversion/unified messaging/etc), then maybe the Ooma box serves a purpose, and its price-point becomes less of an issue.

  36. I got a real cheap XACT usb phone for $10 at walmart, connected it and the fee was $8.85 Unlimited calls out for 3 months so its $2.95 a month.

    I read other comments about the projected price point hey If the total setup cost is like $20 or so yeah Ill jump but even if its free and the box is like $400 or even close you can get a land line way cheaper.

    Nobodys gonna pay that much for a VoIP box that other companies sell for $20-100 with built in wireless router on the $100 version

  37. Correct me if I’m wrong – I noted this on ValleyWag – but isn’t 911 free, even if you have no phone service?

    From years ago when I lived in LA, I remember asking why there was a ring tone on my phone before service started – I was told that it was for emergency 911. Same with when I lived in Tucson.

    So, couldn’t you just keep the phone jacks, and not need service?

  38. I’m curious as to where the pricing came from. Purely based on an evaluation of the manufacturing cost of the hardware? Based on the replacement cost of alternate technologies (vonage for X months)? Certainly free sounds good to me.

  39. Each person that gets accepted into the beta should get 3 chips or numbers that they can give to friends so they can sign up too. Can someone who got in sent me one please 🙂 fearsimon(at)hotmail(dot)com

    thanks so much 🙂

  40. I am excited about the new revolution OOma is trying to create.However, being the eternal skeptic that i am, the pre-requisite of retaining your incumbent services precludes any new customers to sign up.

    Also, as a consumer i feel attempting to target and attract the cheap-call making demographic with a $400 CPE might shun away potential believers. Initial market penetration is heavily dependent on introductory pricing especially when recent history teaches us differently[SunRocket charged $200 for a similar device and the customers are irate since the company has since dissolved]

    Cheers
    -VJ

  41. I want to believe but after being burned by constant issues with Skype and Vonage, and going back to normal landlines, I’ll see what people are saying a year or two out.

    A promise is one thing, performance is another.

  42. Maybe they will go to a lease business model like DISH Network and DirecTV. Lease a box for $10-$20 a month with unlimited calling. If the customer cancels, they either return the box so it can be reused (or they pay $399 on their credit card for it.) The key to that business model is to require credit-worthy customers and a credit card. It works well for both DISH and DirecTV–look at their profits.

  43. Forgive my bluntness, but what it sounds like we have here is a very nicely designed ATA with a POTS pass-thru.
    Is the phone line requirement being called for at present due to the company’s not having E-911 in place yet?

    Michael

  44. This is something interesting. New technology…I hope big telecom companies will not find loop holes with patents etc..to bring the service down. Like verizon went after vonage.

    Regards
    Athidhi

  45. I think this is not going to work. This is nothing more than a Analog Telephone Adapter commonly known as ATA. And these guys giving it a term Media Gateway just for marketing. Secondly regulations will never allow free ride on public landline ifrastructure.

  46. My existing land line, local only, costs $31/mo. At $400, this proposed service gives an approx. 11 mo. Payback – in the first year. If true that the existing land line requirement will drop in Sept., then the up front cost of $400 is certainly not excessive, but should save thousands of dollars within a few years, assuming the company survives, for current land line customers, but that is a different question. Most existing land line contracts are not free. Further, the monthly land line fees tend to increase each year.

  47. I wonder if there are any big ISP’s or data network providers out there that don’t have current aspirations to provide voice services. If Ooma were to partner with a fairly entrenched ISP or data provider, they could bolt the Ooma device onto a data plan offering, and get into the voice business with minimal investment and disruption to their core business.

    If has proven much easier for the cablecos and data providers to upsell voice service because they already have the relationship with the customer. The data provider could then partially subsidize the hardware costs for Ooom’s box, and give them an instant customer base.

    They would likely give up some things in the process of negotiating such a partnership, but they will likely need some allies along the way.

  48. I would like to try out. I just wonder with the pricey price $399, can you just add a little 2.5 or 3.5 inches LCD and little camera like webcam then using your box will be them same as using Skype or Yahoo Messenger without PC.

    John

  49. I wonder how this will be able to compete when most of the triple play packages reduce the cost of phone service down to nothing.

    Would still love to try it out.

  50. Are some of the Ooma boxes (“seed Ooma”) required to provide the PSTN lines to relay incoming calls from other Ooma callers to local incumbent local carrier? Is there any risk of compromising callers’ privacy? A possible weakness that could be exploited by ILEC.

    Need some clarification of this technology.

    K Chang

  51. So, what’s so unique about this benefit? Seems like the restriction of the device far outweighs the savings.

    I can get unlimited calling in the US a few ways already:

    • Sign up for Gizmo Project (I’m biased on this one) and have your contacts add their numbers to their profile and you can call them unlimited for free.

    • Pay Skype $2.50/month

    • Just use my cellphone or upgrade the plan $10-$15 per month to cover the mins I use on my home phone.

    • Or I can buy a $400 device and mentally amoritize the cost of $400 over years and years of use to justify the price by which time I’ll probably get phone service for free anyway through some cable or telco bundle.

    I just don’t get it.

  52. “Secondly regulations will never allow free ride on public landline ifrastructure.”

    But no one is making money or charging for the use of your POTS line plus there is no way to tell “what” is making the call.

  53. Sincerely, i really dont see anything so novel about this idea. Free unlimited calls to US numbers are out there allready from many voip providers and quality are good too. The idea of using my landline to terminate another person’s call does not sound too good from the security point of few and also traffic might get so high that my provider start asking questions (fair use policy). Also buying ooma box for $399 dollars is outrageous, this is more than a year subscription for unlimited calls to US and Canada from other providers. I think they still have a lot of work to do.

  54. I am with the skeptics, the termination using a remote device and the unlimited local calling plan, seems to be illegal to say the least. If this understanding is correct, the moment it gets past the noise level, expect the telcos to fight back. I would not spend $$$ to get such a box. It is much simpler to save money on long distance by buying a calling card service like wqn.com or others.

    Ajay

  55. What about inbound traffic on my PSTN line? If the line is being “borrowed” by OOOMA I can’t get inbound calls. And if I have call waiting, what will the two parties using my line think is happening? Could one or the other flash hook and steal an inbound call?

  56. Interesting. I think there’s real promise in VoIP, but it’s a long ways away and it’s true that the carriers will be a problem.

    As far as rolling it around the world, google “VoIP blocking”. Lots of countries have blocked VoIP – it’s happened here in the U.S. There was a software at the last VON show I attended that blocked VoIP for carriers.

  57. IS this any different what Sipura (currently part of cisco linksys) did with SPA3000 ?

    PS: SPA3102 includes a router and ATA. I have been a happy camper with FWD + SPA3000 + gizmo combination. I paid just 75$ for device and gizmo account (pay as you go).

  58. Call me old fashioned and crazy, but I like the idea of having a phone that doesn’t go dark when the power goes out and doesn’t require that I boot up in order to pick a phone number (“You pick a number of your choice on the website.”). If I’m going to have to turn the ‘puter on and get on the web, I might as well go to jajah and call internationally for nothing.

  59. Though we are looking at the positive side Ooma, there are certain barriers which they have to overcome not only free services do the magic , when it comes to internet an novice user expects some thing for free and boundless.

    And if they expand their market like Vonage it really turns out to be a excellent offer where no man can resist!

  60. I’ve had exceptional luck with Skype, I guess. I think its better and more reliable than my old Verizon/GTE landline was.

    I mostly use a cell, so I don’t use incoming, but Skype’s invaluable for making calls I know will take a long time or where I need to record them, etc. Or on those happily rare occasions when I come close to the end of my normally way overgenerous 1000 minutes on my cell.

  61. @Dave Wombat: There is no concern about call waiting in the following sense. The party on the PSTN side can not act on the call waiting signal because the flash signal will go the C5 switch at that end and not the one connected to the donor Ooma. The Ooma customer who originated the call can generate the switchhook signal which will be ignored by the originating Ooma because it did not generate the call waiting signal. So the donor’s C5 switch will keep generating the call waiting signal. The donor Ooma can store the caller id information and present it at a later time. But voice mail can not be invoked.

  62. For international calls, nothing comes close to tel3advantage.com-simple pricing structure, superior call quality and far less expensive than skype out for international calls, and you are not tied to the computer.

  63. Okay, question.. What about caller ID? Someone in New York is calling to harass his ex girlfriend and leaves a threatening message on her machine. When she calls the police and they investigate they match my phone number up with the time the message was left since my Ooma box was where the call entered the PSTN.

    Extreme example, but how about hundreds of strangers in my town wondering who this guy is on their caller ID?

  64. If you can beat what I currently paying $478 per year for 2 services ie unlimited local and nationwide wide long distance including High speed internet on a dedicated secured network with the phone company….pls call me.

  65. If anyone has any tokens and is feeling extra generous today I would love to try this out. Sounds like a fantastic idea, I’m just a little fuzzy about some of the details of how it works.

    –MrAnt–

  66. I think Ooma will not work, especially in the USA where people are so afraid of terrorists. Would you borrow your phone to Al Qaeda for their next announcement? No? But you might be doing it with Ooma, without even notice. Out of the same reason Jeff Pulver’s “fwdOUT™ Phone Sharing Network” (former Bellster) never made it big: People cannot control who is talking under their number. When someone uses Ooma or fwdOUT, his call will appear on someone else’s phone bill or call record. This poor person would then have to prove that it was an unknown criminal who made the latest phone call. Quite difficult.

  67. Why Ooma is a security risk

    I think Ooma will not work, especially in the USA where people are so afraid of terrorists. Would you borrow your phone to Al Qaeda for their next announcement? No? But you might be doing it with Ooma, without even notice. Out of the same reason Jeff Pulver’s “fwdOUT™ Phone Sharing Network” (former Bellster) never made it big: People cannot control who is talking under their number. When someone uses Ooma or fwdOUT, his call will appear on someone else’s phone bill or call record. This poor person would then have to prove that it was an unknown criminal who made the latest phone call. Quite difficult.

  68. I’m incredibly late to the party, but if anyone has any tokens left floating around in a haze of doubt, I’m willing to take the plunge.

    Thanks in advance.

  69. I would love to try it. I have a landline and DSL connection.

    Would appreciate if some kndered soul forwards me a chip or if Om gets to spread the word for second round of these boxes. My contact is eskaym@hotmail.com.

    I am, like others a bit skeptic about $399 pricing and any privacy issues, but I am sure the company has heard enough and may be coming up with alternatives. Keeping fingures crossed.

  70. A stripped down landline costs $20 a month. Unlimited calling on comcast or vonage costs $25 per month. So I pay $399 to save $5 a month, unless I don’t get the landline. And if I’m about cheap calling, then I won’t get the landline. Because ooma targets people who want cheap calling, they won’t get landlines either. So ooma’s network will have no landlines to use for calls, and they’ll eat up $MM paying the phone companies to complete the calls instead. What are their investors smoking? And Om, why didn’t you call them on that? This is just dumb.

  71. Telephony biz plans work on theory: volume = revenue. Ooma’s biz plan rides on backs of POTS or cable lines. Buy box then buy add-on srvs = $$$. Cost of total information/communication gets larger % of budget. Family/friends complaining of info, news & email – tech = burden! Saturation = return to simplicity.

  72. Hello,
    My name is Jim Steelhammer. I am an IT professional (Desktop support) with a strong interest in VoIP telephone service.

    I would like to be part of the initial testing if a free box is available.

    I have DSL service in my home and a small local network for my personal use.

    Thank you,
    Jim Steelhammer

  73. Cool, but too much of a change to make it big, though it might be a success with the geek crowd. The average consumer can barely understand a simple POTS replacement like Vonage. For them, ooma is just too complicated and risky.

  74. I am interested in trying it. I would appreciate an invitation. Send to: ssigel@gmail.com

    Here is a question nobody has brought up…if the Ooma box places a call using my AT&T landline, what will the caller-id be at the destination? It will either me MY name and number or if they block the id by dialing *67 it will say private. Many lines do not accept private calls and I certainly do not want my name and number all over town for calls made by other Ooma subscribers!!

    Thank you.
    S Sigel

  75. HELLLLP!!!!! Will somebody, ANYBODY, PLEASE answer the following question:

    If you call someone who has an Ooma box, and their local line is being used by the Ooma box……

    WILL YOU OR WON’T YOU GET A BUSY SIGNAL?????

    Further comment:

    THis is ridiculous. All this hype and no-one has answered this question. The Ooma CEO Andrew Frame gave an answer to this question on Friday, and I believe that was false.

    If the originating caller is also using an Ooma box, then it is true. BUT….not in other cases.

    IS THIS CORRECT???????????

  76. I’m very interested in trying this. I almost signed up for SKYPE but thought I would see what this is like. If it goes well I would be happy to let others know.

  77. Adding in my 2 cents…

    I agree ooma in its current model will not work.
    To rehash some previously made points.

    Legal? even if they are not violating any criminal laws I am sure you will be violating the terms of service with your local phone company.

    Caller ID, there is no way for the correct caller ID to be set. either it has to be the phone line owner or blocked, either way I most likely would not answer, I do not know you are my trusted friend.

    Security, well many of us are voyeurs to some extent, I would suspect that it is not a federal crime to listen in on your own phone line, Since the system uses a PSTN line within 12 miles of where you called it does seem plausable that the voyeur could identify the callee.

    Incoming calls, While you may be able to get incoming calls on the line being used by ooma, if someone calls when the phone is in use they will get a busy signal. Basically you will give up that phone number as a resource to contact you. It is possible to forward the incoming call but you will need to pay for that feature, thus reducing the incentive of using the ooma system.

    Price, well @ $399 it would be a hard sell for me even if none of the above was an issue. With Sunrocket entering the deadpool so recently, I suspect some potential buyers will not be willing to risk $399

    Voicemail, I think they said voicemail is part of the device, that means if your broadband is down (unless there is pstn access) you can not get it, if it is visual voicemail then lets not forget now you got serve the page from your blocked port 80 on most home broadband connections.

    IMHO. at the end of the day the p2p part of the model will be more marketing than technical.

    I wish ooma and the users that decide to buy in good luck, they will probably need it.

  78. I think this device will revolutionize the telco world as we know it. I am looking forward to the fresh face on the block. The startup cost will hold back many users but, just as cell phones caught on I believe this will also if the system pans out as expected.

    thanx for the read
    R.Long

  79. The idea sounds good on the surface, however, there are some technical issues that may cause problems for some customers.

    1. The cost is $399 for the ooma hub, but that only allows you to use one phone device. If you want to connect other phone devices, to take advantage of the 2nd line, you must purchase their ooma scout for EACH phone device you have connected. the scout device is an additional $39. so the cost could add up pretty quick. If you want to use ooma and you have 3 telephones in your house you need the ooma hub and 2 scouts, bringing the cost to $478.

    If you have one of those expandable cordless phone systems, you can just connect the base station to the hub and use any of the phones. But they won’t work as 2nd line. To use a 2nd line a phone device has to be connected to another phone jack in the house using their ooma scout.

    1. The phone number of the owner of the ooma box will appear as the caller-id to the person receiving the call, not the phone number of the person who is making the car. (many people have brought this up)

    2. When your POTS line is tied up because your ooma box is placing someone elses call, people who try to call you with a regular phone will not be able to get through. However, people calling you through another ooma box will be able to call you, since the are going through an ooma hub, they can call you using voip, and avoid your POTS line which is in use.

    3. For various reasons, your call going through someone elses ooma box can be unexpected terminated if

      • they try to dial 911
      • they choose to unplug the ooma box
      • someone picks up a phone not plugged into the ooma hub or one of their scouts. the ooma hub will detect that someone has picked up the phone and to prevent them from listening in on your phone call in progress it will terminate it. However, if they have that phone plugged into the oooma scout, then it will ensure that they cannot listen in and they can make a phone call, without terminating your call. but not everyone will buy the scouts.
    4. Now the big one. They say you cannot listen in on other people conversations going through your ooma box:

      • because it is encrypted. well of course it is encrypted. it would be idiotic not to encrypt the voip traffic. the voip side is not the issue.
      • because they have some “proprietary technology to prevent and detect tapping of the phone line.” they basically built in a phone tap detector. you can go down to radio shack and buy one also. it basically detects a change in the electrical signal properties that occurs when another device is active on the phone line. so if you say insert a phone splitter and then try to connect a device to listen/record what is going over the phone line, the ooma hub will detect this device and will have no choice but to disconnect the call to prevent you from listening to it. so you can have fun disconnecting peoples calls by connecting a phone to another jack without the scout.

    You can record other peoples phones conversations going through your ooma hub using an induction phone tap. induction taps are different because they can listen to a phone call without even being connected to the phone line, therefore there is no change in the signal properties. So using an induction phone tap the ooma hub will not be able to detect a listening device, so you can listen and record other peoples call. google it to learn more. this should be interesting.

  80. Here’s another technical problem.

    The communications between the hub and Scouts is said to be like DSL. That must mean that it can not work on the same wire as a DSL system. If you are getting your Broadband from DSL (one of the options), you would have to rewire your house so that the part of your telephone wiring from the outside to your DSL modem is isolated from the part that interconnects the OOMA devices. That isn’t always easy.

    When are the OOMA experts going to answer all the technical questions that have been raised?

  81. I have DSL therefore I have a land line.
    I also was a SunRocket customer & is now with Vonage.
    I was not one of the lucky ones. Have to buy mine.
    I got the e-mail from them today & have ordered one.
    I plan to keep everything as is while I try out Ooma. Should it work out, I will drop Vonage & it will pay for itself in 16 months. If it doesn’t workout, then it will take about 80 months to recoup my losses.
    “Nothing ventured, Nothing Gained”

  82. So many questions…
    Time for some answers from ooma:

    Q: Is this legal? Does it violate the LEC terms of service? is it commercial usage?
    A: IANAL;
    The 1968 Carterphone decision allows consumers to attach PSTN compliant devices to their line and the phone company must service calls to/from those devices.
    The ooma customer whose device is making the call is not selling the call or the device.

    Q: does this “exceed fair use”?
    telcos tried that in 1993 when modems were using too much channel time…
    HOWEVER: ooma does not increase the overall line occupancy rate! there is still one originating line and one terminating line, ooma moves the originating line into the local of the terminating line, but the overall usage is exactly as with standard long-distance usage; in the big picture, the telco needs no new equipment. And ooma’s routing technology avoids overloading any one subsciber.

    Q: Caller ID?
    A: when a call is terminated through another user’s ooma Hub, caller ID is suppressed.

    Q: Security? (terrorists on the line?)
    A: ooma is designed for simplicity, quality and security from the bottom up. ooma fully supports CALEA and can inform authorized LEAs of the true origin of any call placed through the ooma network. Distributed Termination is only used for calls originated from a registered ooma subscriber’s Hub.

    Q: why not use this for international termination?
    A: the landline technologies and PSTN regulations vary from country to country

    Q: phone tapping … ooma may make it easier
    A: there are many devices that make wire-tapping easier; unauthorized wire-tapping is never-the-less a felony.
    ooma has developed technology that detects attempts to listen-in to a call and prevents other ooma subscribers from listening to your calls (so it is not easier)

    Q: what happens if my phone is busy?
    A: ooma’s Instant Second Line feature allows you to make or recieve calls even if the PSTN line is busy.
    the ooma Instant Second Line replaces the need (and payments) for PSTN-supplied “call waiting” service; so that service is disabled before ooma uses your line.

    Q: does the Hub to Scout communication work on the same wire with DSL?
    A: yes.

    Q: Can you control the box via the web?
    A: yes, you access vmail, call logs, configuration of services, etc. via the ooma Lounge web site.

    Q: why is this worth the trouble?
    A: ooma is more than a VoIP ATA, the ooma appliances are designed to give you simple access to all the advantages of the ooma services: Broadband Answering Machine, Instant Second Line, free domestic calling, landline-911, etc.

  83. A couple more technical clarifications:

    Caller ID is blocked when using distributed termination, if you must send caller id, then prefix the call using *82, then dial as usual; your call will be routed through a secure server that provides correct caller id.

    Call Waiting: the ooma Instant Second Line replaces the need (and payments) for PSTN-supplied “call waiting” service; so that service is disabled before ooma uses your line.

    Quality of Voice: the ooma hub can be installed between your modem and your home network/router so it can enforce QoS priority for voice.

    When using the product in “Internet Mode” (with no landline), you pick your DID once when you signup for the service.

    Jeff Peck
    Chief Technologist
    ooma, Inc.

  84. Jeff,
    Any chance at a beta test device for me? I have a landline phone and would LOVE to test the service! My e-mail address is below.
    Thanks,
    Mike

    michaelmantis AT yahoo.com

  85. Please send me an ooma white rabbit token, if you have one to spare, and once I become a beta-tester I will share my tokens with others who request them on this site. Thanks! (I do have a landline.)

    matt242 AT mail.com

  86. HELLO!!!! Is ANYONE out there who is reading this???

    PLEASE answer the following question:

    Is it not true that when the ooma box is using your land line to transfer someone else’s call, your land line will be tied up? Anyone WITHOUT AN OOMA BOX that calls you will get a busy signal??????????????????????

    PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING:

    There have been two responses on this issue from the company, one by the CEO Andrew Frame, and another by ? Jeff Peck…..

    Their answers are both different. Take a look:

    Question: While somebody making a call to your own area is using your line to complete the call, you won’t be able to receive any calls on that line?

    Andrew Frame: Ooma’s technology makes distributed termination completely transparent. This means that even if someone else is using your line, you will be able to make AND receive calls just like normal. Other people still dial your same phone number and your phone still rings, just like before.

    Question: what happens if my phone is busy?

    Jeff Peck: ooma’s Instant Second Line feature allows you to make or recieve calls even if the PSTN line is busy. The ooma Instant Second Line replaces the need (and payments) for PSTN-supplied “call waiting” service; so that service is disabled before ooma uses your line.

    Well, which is it? Is there no busy signal because of ooma’s distributed termination? Or because of ooma’s Instant Second Line feature?

    Will SOMEONE, ANYONE, please respond to this.

    Geez! This is annoying and amazing!!!

  87. Michaelsoft,

    Both answers say the same thing: If your PSTN line is busy (because of ooma’s distributed termination or any other reason), ooma’s Instant Second Line means you can still make or receive a call.

    Even if the PSTN line is busy, when you go offhook, you get ooma dialtone and you can call out; when someone calls you (ooma subscriber or not), your phone rings. It is that simple.

    Truely, it is amazing.

    Jeff Peck
    ooma, Inc.

  88. To: Jeff Peck

    Thank you for taking the time to post an answer to my question.

    BUT……I don’t understand your answer.

    If someone who is NOT an ooma subscriber tries to call you when your PSTN line is busy, the Central Office will not complete that call.

    How does ooma get around this?

    You have stated that the phone will ring…but I notice that you never explain HOW it will ring. The CO [PSTN Central Office] will cause a busy signal because the PSTN line is in use.

    Won’t it?

    In fact, isn’t it true that the ooma box will not even know another call is being attempted, because the CO is not putting the call through.

    If not true, please explain WHY NOT, then I’ll understand and be satisfied.

    Thanks in advance for your answer.

  89. Ah! the moder world… one must “understand” before one can be “satisfied”.

    Not enough that I say it works, not even if Om Malik, Michael Arrington, Walt Mossberg, David Pogue say it works; the true materialist cynic cannot be satisfied until they see it with their own eyes, and undertstand how it works.

    But then, where is the aura of mystery? the sense of awe and wonder? the hint of corporate trade secrets? “There are more things … than are dreamt of in your philosophy”

    But here’s a hint, three letters: C-F-B

    Suffice to say that ooma works with the Local Exchange Carrier to arrange that thet calls that would otherwise be signaled as “busy” are instead deliverd to ooma, where we can send them to your Hub (or voicemail, if the Hub or your phones are not available to take the call).

    Jeff Peck
    ooma, Inc.

  90. To: Jeff Peck

    Jeff, thank you very much for your answer. I suspected it was something like that.

    The only remaining question is how much it is costing ooma per user for the “Call Forward Busy” (CFB) service.

    Maybe it’s free. 🙂

    That would be great.

    If it isn’t free to ooma, maybe it’s an inconsequential amount. Almost as good.

    Inquiring, materialist cynical minds want to know.

    Of course, if this isn’t the case….that would be real bad. But maybe it’s OK.

    BTW, I do have a sense of awe and wonder. I wonder how this CFB necessity was missed/evaded by everyone. I’m in awe of the sneakiness of it all.

    But at least you’ve cleared up the mystery. 🙂

    Regards,

    michaelsoft

  91. I consider myself an expert on the telephone line side of this. I’ve been in the business for over 35 years and designed a system (pre-IP) that did the same thing on the PSTN side.

    Regarding the question by Michaelsoft and others about how you receive a call when your line is busy with an OOMA call. I realized right away that CFB could be used, but someone has to pay for that. Who pays? If I have to pay it, that needs to be added to my expense for this “free for life” service. If OOMA pays, that adds to their expenses, and prevents offering a “free for life” service.

    Now related questions: Where does the second number come from to CFB to? Is it a unique number only for me? Does it go to some OOMA server somewhere else? If it is a common number for many subscribers, how does OOMA know where to route the call?

  92. Hot off the press. Just found this on home.businesswire.com:

    August 9, OOMA announces Pre-sales. The announcement includes the following two statements:

    1. “This announcement contains forward-looking statements … Actual results may differ significantly from management’s expectations.”

    2. “Purchasers during the promotional period will have this no monthly charge service for at least three years.”

    3. “ooma reserves the right to change or modify its offering including limiting the unlimited U.S. domestic calling to an initial set of customers.”

    You can interpret these anyway you want, but to me they mean:

    1. OOMA is making wild claims and, if they don’t work, don’t blame us.
    2. “Free service for life” is only guaranteed to be 3 years.
    3. Later subscribers won’t get free service.

    Anybody willing to bet $400 on those terms?

  93. Have used VoIP for over three years now and with several different providers (Vonage, packet 8, Nuvio) Soyo has a unit that runs on the same principle I ordered it a year ago for about $55 plus $20 monthly fee I used it for about three days and dumped it, took on average 20+ seconds to connect call and sound qualiity was horrable from there I went to SunRocket and we all know where that ended up – alot of consumers getting screwed! What impresses me about ooma is the Five Nines they claim to achieve in connections and sound quality what scares me as mentiond above several times is how incumbents will handle this and how long the free calling will last? being screwed by SunRocket has also left me skiddish about losing even more money $399 OUCH but if everything works out for ooma they are the best available option for someone like me that lives in a rural area where regardless of what everyone else that lives in metros pays we still get RAPED by teleco’s and that will happen for a long time after metro prices continue to to decline! Dammed if you do, dammed if ya don’t! Would love to get my hands on a beta unit and have tried with no luck. if anyone has chips left – PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE! dale.n.danielle@gmail.com (Hayward WI)

  94. Dale writes: “What impresses me about ooma is the Five Nines they claim to achieve in connections and sound quality “.

    But read the statement on OOMA’s web site that says “This announcement contains forward-looking statements … Actual results may differ significantly from management’s expectations. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that include, among others, risks related to competition, management of growth, new products, services and technologies, …”

    I read that to say that they don’t have to provide anything they promised, including quality.

    Where did you see the promise of five nine’s? What did it mean? I’ve never seen the term “five nine’s” applied to sound quality, only to things like “up time” and probability of call completion.

  95. One thing that has not been mentioned as far as I can tell that really bothers me about Vonage and others such as my ISP cable phone is the additional charges.
    On top of the 24.99 or 39.99 charges for the services I am stuck with additional taxes and charges of 40 to 50 percent more.
    My 39.99 cable phone actually costs me $56.
    Will there be additional monthly charges with the OOMA deviec?
    Thank you.

  96. Dennis Peng or Jeff Peck you say “We also have algorithmic and hardware counter measures to detect and prevent line-tapping. Rest assured, no one will be listening to your phone calls.”

    But you never go into details. You honestly don’t expect customer just to take your word for it?

    You should clarify do you mean it is impossible for someone to listen or just hard and under most cases detectable?

    If you do somehow detect it while in the middle of a call what happens? Does the call get dropped?

    Also how do you detect an induction phone tap? I find it very unlikely you have the capability to detect an induction phone tap in a $400 device.

    Please explain. Without answers, how do you expect the potential customers to feel secure about their calls. Also I will assume that without answesr, you CANNOT detect or prevent induction phone taps, and therefore our calls are not safe.

    Make your own induction phone tap
    http://www.unterzuber.com/tap.html

  97. Desperately looking to get a White Rabbit Token…

    If someone is kind enough to be able to offer me one, it would be GREATLY, GREATLY appreciated!!

    Thank you!! =)

    RobbW (giantrobot at socal dot rr dot com)

  98. I have ooma running. When my phone system is in use the 2nd lind does not ring. I get a phone message stating that you have reached a non-working number. I sent an email to ooma and waiting to see the responese.

    I also had a con-call with ooma and Qwest to add CFB based on ooma email to me. We got this done and then I received a letter from Qwest thanking me for adding the serice. I am still trying to figure out the cost and who pays it. I am sure it is me, that would of been nice to know before hand.

  99. I have ooma running. When my phone system is in use the 2nd line does not ring. I get a phone message stating that you have reached a non-working number. I sent an email to ooma and waiting to see the response.

    I also had a con-call with ooma and Qwest to add CFB based on ooma email to me. We got this done and then I received a letter from Qwest thanking me for adding the service. I am still trying to figure out the cost and who pays it. I am sure it is me, that would of been nice to know before hand.

  100. I participated in the White Rabbit program, but my box died less than a week into the trial, and I have been trying to get a replacement ever since.

    There is certainly some fine print to using this service……….the changes they make can be charged for by your local phone company. that much is a given. In my case, I was charged $10.80 to add CF-B to my line, which is an additional $1.75 a month. Then, when my Ooma box broke, I didn’t have VM for 2 weeks. So, after no signs of getting a new box in the mail, I pleaded w/ Ooma to add my VM back until I get a new box. So, they do, which adds an additional $10.80 charge to my phone bill. To add insult to injury, the customer care reps w/ Ooma had the audacity to tell me that they never removed my VM to begin with, and moreover, that my phone company stated that I never had VM w/ my service. Someone must have been giving it to me for free for the last 2 years then………please!

    So far Ooma has cost me $23.35 and w/ Unlimited LD only costing $5 more a month, I could have gotten more usage out of my money by upgrading my account w/ my local carrier; 4 monhts of US domestic calling versus 2 days.

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