Replacing traditional telephone service

Disconnecting from landlines can be difficult. While mobile phones can be a good replacement for most of the functions of a traditional telephone service, there are a few things that mobile phones and wireless service just don't do. What can we do to replace those other functions?
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor

A short while ago, I took up residence in a nice home. Unfortunately, there are very limited options for cable service in the area, and we were forced to accept the only option that provided all of the needed services: Cable television, "high-speed" internet, and telephone service. Once we closed on the property, I called that supplier, Time Warner Cable (TWC), and discussed its available services and pricing. Although the price was higher than a similar selection of services from our previous supplier, Verizon FIOS, and the internet performance was lower, I held my nose and selected a package of services and scheduled an installation a couple of months later.

My first interaction with Time Warner Cable was, shall we say, much worse than I expected (see Time Warner Cable and canceled installation for the full story). In the end, we ended up with cable television and what TWC describes as "high-speed" internet. We just couldn't stomach paying so much more for a dedicated telephone line. So, we decided to become a disconnected family and just use our mobile telephone service.

A few problems appeared during our first month of this grand experiment. We couldn't send or receive faxes, and on rare occasions, our mobile telephone service become unavailable. So, I explored what options were available for voice over IP (VoIP) that would work with our existing telephone hardware. It didn't take long to uncover several options.

All of the options were based upon the purchase of a device that plugged into the router and offered a way for our telephone system to work as if it were connected to a landline. Our goal was to find a system offering monthly pricing that was at least two thirds less than TWC, with good call quality, voicemail, call forwarding, the support of at least two lines (one for our telephone system and one for the fax machine), and could be quickly and easily installed.

Here are some of the options that we considered:

  • magicJack

  • netTalk

  • Obiha

  • Ooma.


MagicJack offers a heavily advertised solution that is based upon a small device that plugs into the cable modem or router. The device includes a power adapter. A regular or cordless phone is then plugged into the device. The device appears to be available for approximately $60, and the annual telephone service is priced at approximately $30.

I spoke with several clients and friends who have been using this device for a while. Nearly everyone commented that they liked the pricing for both the device and the service. They also commented that they often heard complaints that their voices sounded distorted and there were irritating lags that led people to talk over one another.


NetTalk, like magicJack, provides several devices and an inexpensive telephone service. The devices are priced from $34.95 for the netTalk Duo II to $64.95 for the netTalk WiFi. The service offerings are segmented differently than magicJack. The base service is priced at about $30. Service to Canada and Mexico is an additional $5.85 per month. Service to an additional 60 countries costs $10 per month.

None of my clients, friends, or colleagues were using this service, so I had to rely on online reviews. As with magicJack, customers liked the pricing, but had concerns about call quality.


Obihai technology offers a number of devices. A one-line device costs $59.99. A two-line device is priced at $99.99. The company also offers business systems. Obihai's claim to fame is that it offers a way to connect its devices to Google's Google Voice. It also offer an Android and iOS app that allows those devices to use the Obihai service.

As with netTalk, none of my clients, friends, or colleagues were using this service, so I had to rely on online reviews.


Ooma offers the Ooma Telo, the device that connects to the network and offers a telephone jack; an HD2 handset; Linx, a four-port expander; and both a wireless and Bluetooth adapter. Ooma also offers a mobile app.

Ooma's Telo is priced at $179.99, and the monthly service is approximately $5. They offer a premium service for approximately $10 that offers a second line and several other services. In order to access that second line, it is either necessary to be using the HD2 handset or to purchase Ooma's Linx.

Several of my clients are using this device, and mentioned that the sound quality was as good or better than a traditional landline.

Snapshot analysis

There are many other offerings from suppliers, such as Cisco and Vonage. The hardware and service offerings vary widely, and it is necessary to really work out what each will cost for one, two, and three years. It appeared that the Ooma combined with the company's Linx fit our needs the best.

Is your company using one of these systems? What is your experience with them?

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