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Ooma Telo Review
[July 31, 2014]

Ooma Telo Review

Back in 2007 I wrote an article 'Ooma goes Booma' because Ooma's claim-to-fame feature was that it worked by 'sharing' your PSTN analog phone line with other Ooma users. I was right that this PSTN sharing feature and business model wouldn't work, so certainly that did go 'Booma'. However, 5 years later after dropping the PSTN sharing and moving to a VoIP-centric business model Ooma has redeemed themselves with some really cool features. Ooma is a low-cost phone service provider similar to magicJack, netTALK, and Vonage (News - Alert) in many ways, but with some key differentiating features.

The first big difference of note is that unlike the other three aforementioned phone providers, rather than charge a monthly flat rate for service and per-minute costs for calls, Ooma only charges for the initial hardware - $199 Ooma Telo, +$50.99 for Wireless adapter, +$29.99 for Bluetooth adapter and then they only charge you the taxes and local fees for calls in the United States. They have an online calculator that tells you what those local fees/taxes will be.

Sample fees for my CT zipcode:

Regulatory Compliance Fee (what's this?) $1.78
911 Service Fee (what's this?) $1.59
Federal Universal Service Charge (what's this?) $0.39
State and local taxes, fees and surcharges (what's this?) $0.50
Total: $4.26/month

The $4.26/month x 12 months works out to $51.12/year. This is more than netTALK or magicJack, but less than Vonage. Cost is only one factor in a purchasing decision - features is another, and Ooma has features a plenty. Many of these features you won't find in their competitors. One of the sexy features is the base Telo unit is like the old traditional answering machines - you can screen / listen to callers as they are leaving a message and then answer or ignore the call.

The Telo hardware includes a dual-core processor, 1GB of flash memory, and wideband HD audio engine. From the base unit you can press a button to play messages over the Telo speakerphone, skip, rewind, delete, or change the brightness (low, medium, high, off) of the blue buttons. Turning off the cool looking blue buttons is great if placing this unit in a bedroom and you like complete darkness. The base unit also acts as a DECT (News - Alert) base station but you'll have to purchase the Telo DECT handsets separately. Using the DECT handset is the only way of leveraging the HD wideband audio feature.

Oomo Internet Settings. Note the PPoE support.

I didn't test the Ooma Telo DECT 6.0 PureVoice HD handset and it is currently out of stock on Ooma's website. I checked other retailers and it lists for $209, which is a bit pricey. However, when you purchase the Oomo and Telo handset bundle last time pricing was available it was $259. So buying the bundle is the way to go, however that doesn't help your wallet if you're looking to have multiple DECT Telo handsets.

The main Ooma Telo base unit can support up to 4 handsets. The main advantage of the Telo Handset is the instant second line feature, which grabs the 2nd line automatically when another person is on line 1. It also lets you screen the caller from the handset, which is useful if the base unit (Telo) is far away and you cannot hear the caller via the base unit's speakerphone. I will say that the Telo's speakerphone is pretty loud and I was able to hear the caller from upstairs with the Telo unit located downstairs. That negates the need for handset call screening in most instances, unless you live in a mansion.

Oomo Device Status

Another nice feature is you can add contacts via the web portal and sync the contacts down to your Telo Handset(s). One final advantage of the Telo handset is the ability to send a caller directly to voicemail with the push of a button, but that's a minor feature.

Voice Quality / Latency
To combat packet loss the system leverages adaptive redundancy. The Ooma Telo system detects packet loss and sends duplicate packets to cover the gap. I made several test calls and the voice quality was pretty good. I performed some latency benchmarks and came up with an average of 0.39s/390ms. It was pretty consistent and didn't vary from this 390ms latency average at all, which was tested across three calls each lasting a 1-2 minutes long. I then tested on another day and came up with a latency average of 238ms (Ooma VoIP to landline) and an average of 258ms (landline to Ooma VoIP), so in addition to the next day having better latency, 'landline to Ooma VoIP' was consistently had about 20ms more latency than 'Ooma VoIP to landline'. This is consistent with other VoIP products I've tested where the outbound leg has slightly better latency than the inbound leg. A few more days testing and it seemed the 238/258ms (outbound/inbound) figures were the most accurate average latency.

Latency Comparison with netTALK and magicJack
For comparison, the latency of the netTALK DUO across two separate calls had a lowest latency figure of 421ms and the highest latency figure of 449ms, with an overall average of 436ms. This appears to be much slower than Ooma, though to be fair I didn't make latency tests across multiple days. I didn't test the latency for magicJack plus when I reviewed it, so I tested it today and my first latency test came up with an amazingly low 0.123s (123ms). I thought that couldn't be right, so I tested it again and got 0.139s (139ms). I tested it a few more times to come up with an average of 0.137s (137ms). Wow. magicJack clearly was the latency winner.


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