My Cut the Cable: Watch TV for Less article generated a lot of positive feedback, so I thought I would take it a step further and discuss another service a lot of families consider a necessity: the home telephone.
There’s no denying the shift away from landlines – a recent study by the Convergence Consulting Group predicted that 26 per cent of Canadian homes will ditch the landline and go exclusively with wireless phone service by the end of 2014. Despite the trend, the vast majority of Canadians still have a landline. Let’s look at landline alternatives that offer better service for less.
Magic Jack Plus – $69.95, then $29.95 per year
Magic Jack Plus is one of the most popular Internet-based telephone service (VoIP ) and with good reason. Magic Jack Plus is a big improvement over the original Magic Jack. Magic Jack Plus works just like a landline telephone – all you need is an Ethernet (Internet) connection with a minimum upload speed of 128 kb/s. The sound quality is crystal clear due to the HD Voice and Echo Control.
$29.95 per year is a bargain, especially with all the features you get – unlimited calls to Canada and the US, call waiting, 3-way calling, caller ID, call forwarding and voicemail. Magic Jack Plus is easy to setup. The only downside is you won’t be able to keep your existing home phone number, although you can get a new local phone number (if one is available). Also, some users have complained about connection and sound quality issues. For emergencies there’s an enhanced E911 service, although it won’t function if your Internet connection is down. For iPhone users there’s a handy MagicJack App that allows you to make free calls to US and Canadian phone numbers.
Ooma – $230, then $3.98 per month
Ooma is a VoIP service similar to Magic Jack Plus (only an Internet connection is required). For an initial price tag of $230, Ooma users can make unlimited phone calls to Canada (for $9.99 per month you can upgrade to the premier service and make unlimited calls to the U.S.). Calling features include caller ID, call waiting, voicemail and e911.
Ooma Telo, the main device, acts as a gateway to connect your computer to your phone – your Ethernet connection and landline are connected to Ooma Telo. For $39.99 you can port your existing home phone number or you can opt to select a local number. Ooma’s e911 service is the real McCoy – in emergency situations your home address is sent to the authorities. Ooma has been praised for its superior sound quality and reliability.
Skype – Free to download, pay as you go or subscription fees apply
Skype known for its ability to make voice and video calls over the Internet, but have you ever consider using it as your home phone? Skype can be used in tandem with VoIP and is ideal for making lots of International calls. All you need is a PC and an Internet connection.
Skype-to-Skype calls are free; to make regular calls to phones you can opt for pay as you go or subscribe to Skype Premium for $4.99 and have unlimited phone calls to a country of your choice. With the purchase of a home phone adapter starting at $39.99, Skype can be used with your home phone. The major flaw with Skype is that 911 calls aren’t supported and you can’t port your existing number. Google Talk gets an honourable mention, as it offers a similar service.
Comwave – $14.95 per month (6 months free)
You’ve probably seen the commercials on TV, encouraging you to give up your landline. Despite its large advertising budget, Comwave has received mixed reviews. Customers receive 14 features, including voicemail and caller ID. You can select the plan that suit you best – plans start at $9.95 per month, up to $29.95 per month for the Global Plan, which offers unlimited long distance to almost 60 countries.
Comwave has received a lot of negative feedback – complaints about missed and dropped calls, poor sound quality and poor technical support are common. 911 calls are supported, but make sure your address is up to date, as there’s been at least one incident where a child passed away because the authorities were dispatched to an old address.
As you can see, there are a host of decent landline alternatives. With the support of 911 calls, services like Ooma can finally be looked at as true landline replacements. There are just too many VoIP services to list – Vonage, Yak and Primus to name a few. Do you still have a landline or have you taken the plunge into VoIP? Which service do you like best? Please share with us.
Statistics: Vancouver Sun – Canadians hanging up on landlines, moving to wireless
About the Author: Sean Cooper is a single, 20-something year old, first time home buyer located in Toronto. He has experience in the financial sector as a Pension Analyst, RESP administrator and Income Tax Preparer. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce in business management from Ryerson University.