Thursday, July 19, 2007

Phone calls for free? Catch?

Ooma is a new VOIP startup with the promises of "free phone calls". With Vonage struggling and SunRocket plummetting downwards, it is hard to imagine. So how will Ooma do it? Or what is the catch? Ooma lets the customer use their existing telephone lines, to make or receive calls. All calls in U.S. are free, but a proprietary hardware (base hub) is required. This will set back the customer around $400. And, then as like any other VOIP offering you need a broadband connection. You connect the broadband on one end of the base hub and an existing phone on the other end. That's it. What happens if I have multiple phones in my house? Well, Ooma has something called Scouts which serve as additional units to cover the other phones. In a similar manner to the base hub connection, the Scouts are connected by plugging one end to an existing phone jack and the other to an existing phone.

Well, quoting from Ooma's website:

This is the promise of ooma. 131 years after Alexander Graham Bell's patent that gave birth to the telephone dial tone, ooma is filing patents to let customers "own" that dial tone - forever changing the way they think about home telephone service.

I have signed up at Ooma's website but I will not jump about and make a $400 investment as soon they come out. I will wait a while. I am still skeptical about the quality of the calls. We will see...

By the way, TechCrunch has a nice article and some pretty pictures of the hardware. Also, some nice comments for people and equally good replies from the Ooma staff - especially the highly technical comment by Dennis Peng (30). And, then a comment about the terms by Michael Steverson (51). Also, a fairly big concern raised by Josh(57) - listening in on random conversations... oh my!

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