Saturday, September 26, 2015

Free Home Phone

A couple of months ago, I wrote another post about setting up a free phone number using Google Voice.  This can be handy, but perhaps you don't want to make and receive calls from your computer.  You want to use a real phone.  Today I'll explain how to do that.  You can even replace your existing home phone with this and never pay a phone bill again.

This system still uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).  In other words, you will still need to have a good Internet connection.  It's also not completely free since you will need to buy a piece of equipment to make it all work.  But dumping phone bills forever means it pays for itself, usually within a month or two.

This is the same concept as Vonage phone service, which offers a similar service for a low monthly fee.  The difference with this system is that after the one time purchase of the adapter,  your calls are completely free forever - at least until Google decides to dump this service.  But I think it has been available for nearly ten years.  It does not appear to be going away.

The service works like this: If you don't have one already, set up a phone number with Google Voice. Create or sign into your free Gmail account, then open  Follow the steps to create a new phone number and pick one.  You can also assign an existing number you have to your Google Voice account.  You can now make or receive phone calls through Google Voice without paying a penny.

But today we are taking that one step further.  Say you want to add a second phone line in your house, or even completely replace the current landline in your home (or anywhere else).  You can connect your Google Voice number to you home phone system quite easily with a device from Obihai Technology.  This device connects to your home internet and then provide a port to connect a phone.  You can connect a single phone, multiple phones, or connect it into any phone jack in your home network to make it work with all the phones in your house.  Once connected to a normal phone, you can make or as many calls as you like.  All calls in the US or Canada are free.  Long distance calls are dirt cheap (e.g. calling Britain in one cent per minute).

I purchased an Obi100 adapter for about $50.  I set up an account and connected a regular 30 year old phone to it and have been using it as a second line in my home.  It has worked great with no problems.  You need to have a good internet connection for things to work properly.  A poor internet connection will distort the voice and make the conversation hard to hear.  Your adapter must connect into an Ethernet port on your network, not just WiFi.  Of course, you can plug a wireless phone into the adapter for a wireless experience.

I can take my adapter and phone with me and plug them in wherever I go.  I always have my phone and phone number with me.  It is usually easier just to use the Google Voice feature to forward calls to another phone or use my tablet when on the road.  But if you are going somewhere else, and want your landline phone with you, there is no problem, as long as you have Internet access and an Ethernet port.

I find this system particularly helpful with teenagers in my house.  I won't let them have a cell phone yet, or more specifically I won't pay for the cell service.  They can use this second line for phone calls without tying up our main line.  At some point, I'm considering moving my main home phone number over to this system, though I have not had the nerve yet.  My main number already uses Comcast VoIP technology, so it is not that big a leap.

The other issue is that Obihai does not work with 911 emergency services.  If you intend to use this as your only phone, and try to call 911, it does not know where you are and cannot connect you to  your local emergency services.  Please keep that in mind.

All that said, I have used this system as a second line in my home for several months now.  I have no complaints with it and recommend it to all.