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Cut the Home Phone Line: Talk on the Phone for Less

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

Website: http://www.themagicjack.ca/

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

Website: http://ca.ooma.com/

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

Website: http://www.skype.com

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)

Website: http://www.comwave.net

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.

Final Thoughts

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 AuthorSean 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.

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Avatar 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. You can read some of his other articles here.

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Avatar B. Kwan May 24, 2012, 9:16 am

    I’ve been thinking about doing this for months, and I intend to finally do it when our current promo with Bell expires in a month’s time. They seem to continually nickel and dime us to death with little rate increases here and there. We’re ditching both our internet and phone with them, and probably going with Magic Jack. Losing our home phone number isn’t a big deal. Maybe then we’ll finally rid ourselves of the air duct cleaning solicitation calls.

  • Avatar luckych May 24, 2012, 9:56 am

    What about freephoneline.ca: $50w/o-$100 with voip adapter to signup and then it’s free.
    Vbuzzer: $50/year for unlimited GTA calls

  • Avatar Manish May 24, 2012, 11:38 am

    Then there is also vonage. You get the unlimited World plan for $30 a month.

  • Avatar Benjamin Fu May 24, 2012, 12:02 pm

    There is another big name in the market: DellVoice. They provide free CA and US call in major cities, with a $50-ish fee for an adapter. If you stay on computer or iphone, it’s totally free.

  • Avatar Marni A. May 24, 2012, 12:03 pm

    Hi, I’m keeping my landline for as long as it is available! Call me a Luddite (and many people do) but I have a real concern about speaking on wireless phones to the extent that many people seem to. (I’m a journalist and won’t bore you with the credible research but look it up. I suggest the Environmental Working Group as a start since much of the research is funded my cellphone makers. Enough said.)
    Second, I’m increasingly impatient with the lack of fidelity from cellphones. Whether it’s from personal calls or webinars I’m listening to, I hate, really hate, the lack of quality from these calls. They compromise my comprehension and as a result I have to listen very actively to catch everything. Hardly relaxing.
    So, while there may be some VOIP options here, I do use Skype to speak to a few people around the world, I’ve been underwhelmed with that quality too. I expect there will be a flood of people denouncing what I’ve written but since I’m paying less than $30 a month to Bell for my landline (including voicemail and call answer), I consider that a bargain!

  • Avatar gcai May 24, 2012, 12:25 pm

    switched to Magic Jack Plus a few months ago – never looked back – no more Bell – YES!!

    BCE is a good investment (great dividend) that I’ve held for decades but has lousy service – cannot reconcile the two. Keep the stock dump the service.

    Magic Jack App also works flawlessly with an iPod Touch gen 4

  • Avatar Christine Wilson May 24, 2012, 12:30 pm

    @Marni – I’m the exact opposite of you! I’m in the tech industry and do not rely on my phone for the majority of my work. I use Talkit.ca which is $60/yr and does not have the best connection. Since I don’t use my phone very often I’ll keep using VOIP. But I may switch to Skype, Google Talk or Magic Jack instead to find a more reliable service.

  • Avatar saveddijon May 24, 2012, 12:41 pm

    One thing to consider before you switch:

    POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) from Bell or the like is the ONLY telephone that will continue to work despite an extended power outage.

    If the power goes out, any VOIP system will be unusable unless you have a generator (and the Internet plant is still running). A cell phone lasts as long as its battery, which may be only a couple of days during an extended outage.

    Only a land line has independent power, and mandated reliability that goes well beyond the reliability promised with the Internet (i.e. none). In an emergency your life may depend on it.

  • Avatar Mike May 24, 2012, 12:54 pm

    Another Phone service is Talkit.ca. Its $5 a month free any where in canada…..cheap rates to the states. We have high speed internet and it works great!!! Better then magic jack cause you buy a small switch for $70 but you dont have to leave you PC on all the time like magic jack…you dont need you pc on at all!!

  • Avatar Marcin May 24, 2012, 1:29 pm

    Comwave service is not good stay away.

  • Avatar Jairo May 24, 2012, 1:30 pm


    You forgot about freephone line.

    99 initial cost, ten 000000!

    0 dollars a month for your home phone line!

  • Avatar John Torrington May 24, 2012, 1:58 pm

    Google Phone works at least as well as the Jack and is totally free to the US & Canada. Better yet, it takes advantage of your existing Gmail contact list, so you aren’t rebuilding another contact list.
    The difference is you aren’t using a handset. You could use a usb headset. I just use the microphone built into my laptop.
    People do mention a bit of an echo but no more than the Jack.

  • Avatar Des May 24, 2012, 2:55 pm

    How about the Text Free Plus Voice app? We have an iPod touch and an old iPhone that no longer have service, but they can still function as phones on wifi at home. The app is free, as are inbound calls. Outbound are pay as you go. Just one other option…

  • Avatar Another Brian May 24, 2012, 3:37 pm

    I’m keeping the land line – it runs on Telco batteries and by law must be available 4 hours after a power outage. Remember you cant use voip when the power goes down. We use skype for long distance, or to talk to the older crown we use phone cards – 10 bucks for a few hours to Russia. No need to use voip just yet. If I lived in Europe I might do it since landlines are hard to come by in some areas. Good article though.

  • Avatar Millionaire May 24, 2012, 6:43 pm

    freephoneline.ca works for canadians i.e. you can port your existing phone number (25$)
    you can receive calls from landlines.
    it’s the best.
    hook up your regular phone to it for 99$ one time fee.
    then no more monthly fees

  • Avatar 4ryan May 25, 2012, 1:23 am

    Does anyone know of a VOIP service that will work with a traditional home alarm system without having to purchase/rent a GSM adapter?

  • Avatar Rick Coyle May 25, 2012, 11:33 am

    I was going through this exercise a few months ago. If I cancelled my landline my internet service was going to increase in cost so I eliminated my long distance package and use skype on my Samsung Galaxy S2 cell phone for making all long distance calls. I can call any cell phone or landline anywhere in North America for under $3.00 per month. Quality varies from day to day but not bad overall. I have a 6GB data package so I use it anywhere and have never had any data issues.

  • Avatar Tewes May 25, 2012, 3:41 pm

    You may outraged by comwave’s cancellation policy. Once you request them to cancel your service, they ask you to wait for 7 – 10 days for their cancellation department to call you. Then another 1 month from that day to cancel their service.

    If you missed their call for some reason, the cycle resets and you have to call them and wait for another 7 -10 days then 1 month.

    Better not to signup with them.

  • Avatar Jeremy May 25, 2012, 3:50 pm

    I ordered an OBI100 from amazon.com (which worked amazingly well to have it delivered in Canada… about $59.87 after all was said and done). Since I already had a free Google Voice account (by using freephoneline.ca to setup a 403 number and using that to register a vanity US number), I’m able to use that with a physical phone now.

    A phone line for $0 per month with unlimited North American long distance (as long as Google Voice stays free… at least until the end of 2012). With the ability to make and answer calls in the traditional way.

    The OBI100 can also be used with freephoneline.ca’s SIP profile, or voip.ms when Google Voice stops being free.

    My only concern with staying Google Voice only is that I don’t have 911 on it. Once I add freephoneline.ca or voip.ms then I’ll have that again. Until then, I’ll have to rely on the cell phone for 911 service

  • Avatar Ilan May 27, 2012, 9:27 am

    I have been wanting to do this for a while now but have not gone ahead yet for one simple reason; home alarm monitoring. When you cancel your phone line, you will not be able have your alarm monitored UNLESS you have GSM backup. This is not necessarily a big issue but from my research, it costs about $200-$250 for GSM add-on to your alarm and then there is a premium for the service (could be around $30-$40 a month) which impacts the savings from cancelling the phone line. If someone has found a cost effective workaroud, please share!

  • Avatar Rob May 27, 2012, 10:47 am

    I’ve added Talkit.ca to my home and have had no problems since geting the small VoIP adapter. It is $59.99 a year (paid annuallly) with free calling anywhere in Canada. THere is a premium you have to buy ahead of time to call to the US but I really don’t do that. All features such as call display, waiting, voicemail are inlcuded.

  • Avatar Sean Cooper May 28, 2012, 10:08 am

    @ saveddijon
    I agree. Sometimes it’s nice to just pick up the phone and know it will work without having to fiddle with your internet connection. Also, power outages are a big deal. Remember the blackout of 2003?

  • Avatar Steve @ Grocery Alerts Canada May 28, 2012, 12:02 pm

    We just reviewed the NetTalk Duo and it is cheaper than the MagicJack. I had problems installing this for a friend.

    The Nettalk duo is $59 for the device. I like that it works for iPad also. We did a review on grocery alerts, http://www.groceryalerts.ca/win-free-year-home-phone-nettalk-duo/.

    The 911 service is important as Skype alone doesn’t have this.

    One service not mentioned was RIngCentral (I was using this as I run the blog as a business) and it was great. For $50 (unlimited long distance, my own toll-free number, fax line, and 2 local phone numbers). I even had my own operator line service (press 1 for sales, etc).

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