Finding a Cheaper Home Phone Service
In this article I explain how I replaced my home phone service provider with a $50 adapter (or cheaper with a good sale/coupon) that uses the free Google Voice service to make and receive phone calls. For the past 10 years I have been a customer of Vonage for my home phone service. And although I think alot more of Vonage than I think of most other home phone service providers, especially the POTS landline providers, I finally dumped it. I had Vonage’s $26/month international plan, but with all the taxes it was $36/month…and that money could be better spent or saved…so goodbye Vonage, but what to do instead?
Many people would suggest just getting rid of the home land line completely in favor of using your mobile phone, but I felt that having a handset to reach for that is always charged, and has less radiation was worthwhile, especially when it is almost free.
|The OBI200 Adaptor – About $50 on Amazon.com
So what is the solution I am using? Google Voice with an adapter from Obihai Technology, specifically I got the Obi110 for $48.99 from Amazon.com–this is a one-time purchase. It is easy to install-to summarize, you hook the adapter up to the internet via an Ethernet connection and then to a telephone or telephones in your home. Once that’s done, you log into the Obi Technology website and set up an account (for free)–this is where you configure your device to use Google Voice, which currently allows free phone calls in the USA and Canada.
If you’re not familiar with Google Voice, you should be–even if you don’t plan to use it for your home phone service. Google Voice is Google’s free telephone solution. Just visit voice.google.com while you’re signed into your free Gmail account and you can get started choosing a phone number, hopefully in your area code.
You can always change the phone number at any time and I will explain how to transfer a phone number from another service below. Google Voice is great because it has lots of features and it is really flexible–for instance you can set it up so that when someone calls you the call is forwarded to one or more of your other phone numbers–simultaneously. Most importantly though, it works with the OBI adapter so that you can get home phone service for free.
The quality of the calls is very good. As long as you have a decent internet connection, you will have crystal clear calls without lag or noise.
Cutting The Cord From Cable Television
I want to add this is an important part of the puzzle for people who are cutting the cord and getting rid of Cable TV in their homes. The ballooning prices make it worth it to ditch the hugely over-bloated and wasteful television experience, but many people are in a circumstance where they get their television bundled together with internet and phone service. So getting rid of the TV and phone service is complicated by the fact that the cable company provides your dial tone. I’ve written more about this in another post about saving money, but basically if you get in on a good deal from your cable company for internet only, you can easily save $100/month just right there.
More About Google Voice
|Here is a screenshot of the interface of caller
treatments in Google Voice.
Google Voice is awesome. It gives you lots of flexibility in routing your calls and handling your voicemail.
One of my favorite features is the fact that it allows you to decide how to handle calls from contacts you know, people you don’t know and anonymous calls separately. So you might decide to send anonymous calls straight to voice mail, or when your mother calls–all of your various phone numbers will ring in unison.
Keeping Your Existing Phone Number
The good news is that Google Voice lets you transfer in a phone number for $20. So theoretically you can keep your existing home phone number…but there’s an issue: Google Voice only lets you transfer in mobile phone numbers, not landline or VOIP numbers. So if you had a Vonage, AT&T, Verizon or other landline, you’re going to have to go through some contortions to keep your old number.
I think the easiest path to take is to do what I did: get a T-Mobile mobile phone SIM card (it was on sale for $1 shipped when I got mine–normally they are $10), and then transfer your old landline phone number to T-Mobile as a waypoint between your old provider and Google Voice. One the number is transferred to T-Mobile than just transfer it again to Google Voice.
Google Voice needs to be able to call your phone number in order for you to initiate the transfer eg- in order to successfully transfer the number to Google Voice, you’re going to have to activate your T-Mobile phone. And in order to do that, you’re going to need some money on your T-Mobile account. I can tell you that the smallest amount you can get away with is $10.
If you select a pay-by-the-day plan or pay by the minute, that will work fine. Unfortunately, once you transfer your number out, you loose any credit on the account…so, in my case, I lost $10 (plus the dollar I paid for the SIM card). The process took three days altogether…but I am happy to still have my old number.
Hooking Up The Adapter
If you already have been using Vonage or another VOIP phone provider, hooking up the OBI adapter is a very simple matter – you just swap the Vonage adapter for the OBI one by hooking up an Ethernet cable and phone line. If you haven’t used Vonage before, you might need to make some adjustments to your home phone wiring if you intend to use your wall jacks. It is a much simpler matter if you just want to hook up a cordless phone (or better yet, a multi-handset cordless phone like the ones you might get from Costco with one or two bases, but four handsets).
It turns out that if you run a phone wire from the telephone out of the OBI box and plug it into your wall jacks (you can use a Y-jack if you want an extension where you plug this in). But it is very important that if you are going to go this route, you need to first disconnect your old phone company’s wires from your phone system (through the network interface box that is probably outside of your house). IF YOU DON’T, there could still be current on the line and it will fry your OBI box. Again, this is only important if you plan to light up the phone jacks in your house with a dial tone…if you just plan to plug in a set of cordless phones, you don’t have to worry about that at all.
911 and Emergency Phone Service Concerns
Although using Google Voice for your home phone works very well, there is an important, valid concern–what happens in an emergency? There are two facets to this–one is that with regular phone service (the old kind) your electricity could go off in your home but your phone would still work. That may still be true with Cable/FIOS service if they give you equipment with a battery backup…however it is not so with the OBI device–at least not unless you put your internet equipment, phones and your Obi200 device on a separate backup.
The second concern is that if you dial 911, what will happen? Well, in short, that may not go so well with a Google Voice line. Luckily, there is an option. For $12/year you can get E-911 service from a company called Anveo that will route your call to the correct nearest 911 center and will send your address (that you provide–you have to change it if you move) so you don’t have to tell the operator where to send help. (If you sign up for Anveo’s e911 service, please use the following referral code: 2722344.) After you create your online account for your OBI adapter, you’ll find a link to setup Anveo’s service.
BTW, if you’re looking for a very low cost mobile phone service, I suggest you consider Republic Wireless Android smartphone service with no contract and 4G data, voice and texting for $30/month.
Here is a video that explains more about the OBI and Google Voice–some of it is slightly outdated especially the information about no 911 service (See above):
Summing It Up
Looking for other ways to save money, consider changing your electricity provider…a no-brainer way to save money every month with about a half-hour’s worth of effort. You may also want to read my review of Google’s mobile phone company “Google Fi.”