I am old school. I still like to have a landline phone in my house. I have been using the OBi200 to get free calling in the US and Canada. There are no recurring monthly bills and I like not having to deal with a telephone company that raises prices every year.
There is a one-time cost of purchasing the OBi200 Polycom device and it costs around $50. There are no usage limits, so you can make as many calls as you want for free.
Get Free Home Phone Service With OBi Devices
Buy the Obihai Device
First, you need to buy the Obihai OBi200 device. This device will connect to your internet to provide phone service. Obihai OBi200 device has one port, which gives you one phone number. If you need two phone numbers, get the Obihai OBi202, which has two ports. The ports can be used for a telephone or a fax line.
The typical price is around $50 for the OBi200 and $70 for the OBi202. Prices on these drop by $10 to $15 multiple times a year. I got my OBi200 device for around $40 in December.
How does it work?
Obi200 uses Voice over IP (VOIP) technology to offer phone service. It routes your calls through the internet and not through telephone lines like a traditional telephone company. The OBi devices are integrated with Google Voice (owned by Google, obviously). Google provides phone service for free. Google will provide a phone number if you need one or you can port your number to Google. In either case, your phone number will stay with Google, not Polycom, the owner of OBi.
The OBi devices’ integration with Google Voice (GV) has a number of advantages. Google allows you to connect more than one phone number to GV. The advantage of this setup is that when someone calls your number, all the numbers connected to Google Voice will ring. Google Voice also allows you to call other countries for a reasonable per minute rate. You will need to buy international calling credit ahead of time if you plan to make international calls.
Get all standard phone features but no recurring bills
With Google Voice and OBi devices, you will get all the phone features you would expect such as caller ID, call blocking, call forwarding, three-way calling, etc. Neither Polycom nor Google Voice will send you monthly bills. In fact, you don’t need to have a credit card on file with either of them
One disadvantage of the Obi VOIP devices is that it doesn’t come with a standard 911. But there is a workaround. You can sign up for a E911 service like Anveo or PunchAlert, which cost around $25 per year. Once you sign up for an E911 service, the 911 operator will have access to your name and address if you ever have to call 911 .
How to set up?
- First, you need to set up a Google Voice account (need a Gmail account).
- Google Voice will get you a new phone number for free, or you can port your number to Google Voice. Google charges a one-time fee of $20 to port the number to Google Voice.
- Note that GV will only port-in mobile numbers. So if you are porting in your current landline number, you will first need to port it to a mobile operator such as Ultra Mobile, and then port it to Google.
- Go to Obitalk.com and register your device. The website will walk you through the steps. It is fairly straight forward. You will also be able to link your Google Voice account to your device at this stage. You will have also have the option to set up E911.
While the phone service from OBi200 is reliable, I did run into a couple of issues while setting up the device. The ObiTalk website would not allow me to register the device. I was getting errors but after a few tries, I was able to register. So be persistent if you have registration problems. Polycom’s customer service is not very responsive but thankfully I have never had any issues since then. ObiTalk has an active forum where you can search for answers if you have any questions or problems with the service.