Monday, December 09, 2013

Obihai Obi200 - Free or nearly free home phone line




- I picked this up on sale from amazon for $40 (it's currently $50).
- This is basically a unlocked completely open highly configurable voip box.  It works with up to 4 sips with a variety of voip providers.  The unique thing about this box is it also emulates google talk which lets you use the free google voice as your voip provider.
- You get all the benefits of google voice like screening, voice mail transcribe, blocking, conference calls, etc for completely FREE as of this writing (though google seems to renew the free deal every year so hopefully the trend continues).
- You don't get E911 though but it's easy to add that for $12-15 a year (and it takes up one of the 4 sip slots).  There are no other hidden fees or taxes like ooma's supposedly free tier of service.  Obi makes it easy to sign up for E911 using this company.
- Setup took like 10 min and was very easy to do.
- This model only has 1 physical phone jack that works with any regular land line phone.  If you plan to use the other sips then I guess you'll have to stick to soft phones like using a pc or the iPhone app.  You can jump up to the 202 model which has 2 physical phone jacks but it also has some useless router features (who doesn't have a much better router these days anyways).
- It has a usb port if you want to add wifi or usb storage (didn't test).
- It also supports T.38 fax (didn't test yet).
- The box is tiny and about the same size as an appleTV.
- Voice quality is excellent (as good as my current voip provider phonepower which I think I'll let my contract expire).  I've used it for several work teleconference calls without issue.
- I setup QoS on my asus router based on the obi200 mac address and gave it highest priority.
- The biggest drawback over a service like ooma is number porting.  Currently, google voice only lets you port from a cell number not a land line number (and that includes all voip numbers).  The cumbersome workaround is to port your land line to a pre pay cell and then from a cell to google voice and then drop the cell.  That sounds like way too much effort for me.
- The other risk is google changes something that breaks compatibility with the obi device but obi has sold a lot of them so I would expect a pretty quick response.  Still, we are only talking about a $40-60 initial investment which isn't all that much.
- Faq with lots more information including a tutorial on setting up google voice.

Highly recommended.  For a truly unlocked voip adapter you can't beat the obi.  You can deep dive into it's setting pages if you want (which gives peace of mind that this will support pretty much any voip provider) but basic google voice setup is a snap through the obitalk site.  

UPDATE:
The free google voice train is going to end in 6 months:

Looks like they are partnering with somebody to offer $40/yr plans (that includes all fees and taxes)

That puts it pretty close to ooma which is is around $45 with a calculated $3.74/month in fees and taxes.

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