Concerns about Ooma

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I haven’t tried Ooma yet, but it sure feels like the greatest thing since sliced bread, given all the hype and buzz surrounding it. And it’s just started private beta. You can find some of the greatest reviews at GigaOm, Crunch, Engadget, Mossberg, – some of the writing are pretty clear indications that Ooma reached out to these folks to publicize the private beta launch. So I thought I’d do a quick analysis to see if there are any drawbacks.

In any case, here are some of my concerns:

  • Ooma routes calls via another Ooma box’s POTS telephone connection to terminate calls. This also means that you could hook up a recording device or an IP-PBX like Asterisk between Ooma and your phone jack on the wall and record conversations. You might not know the people in the conversation, but the receiver of the call is in your area code. The called number should be trackable, and then you could easily get the name and address associated with that number online.
  • If some else’s call is terminated through the telephone connection hooked to your Ooma box, the caller ID seen by the called party would be your number, even though you wouldn’t even know that a call is routed through your Ooma box.
  • If some else’s call is terminated through the telephone connection hooked to your Ooma box, your local calls (for many people most calls are local) will be routed via the Internet and then via someone else’s Ooma box. Despite having local phone service, you will now get lower quality service. Might as well not get rid of local service and get vonage.
  • If you are making a call that goes through someone’s Ooma box and that person dials 911, then your call will be automatically and immediately get disconnected. This has low probability of happening, but a valid concern nonetheless.

Ooma is still in private beta. By the time Ooma goes “public beta”, hopefully these concerns will have been alleviated!

6 Comments

  1. Actually, if your line is busy with someone else’s OOMA call, and someone in the PSTN (about 99.9% of the telephones in the world) tries to call you, they will get busy tone. OOMA keeps incorrectly claiming that the other call will somehow be routed to you over a “second line”. The only way this could happen is if you subscribe to Call Forwarding on Busy (more expense on your monthly phone bill) and it is forwarded to some OOMA subscribed line (more expense for OOMA in providing you “free” service”). Even then, I don’t know of any signaling that the OOMA equipment could receive on their line to know where to route the call. More likely, it would have to be forwarded to a second phone line that you pay for (more expense).

    I think this “second line” claim is false.

  2. Mike, you make a good point. However, if you have call waiting, the caller will not get a busy tone. Perhaps the incoming call to you will ring your phone like an ordinary call (even though the line is busy with someone else’s ooma call). If you accept the incoming call, the first ooma call will be put on hold and they wouldn’t know what happened. Perhaps ooma will re-route that call via another ooma box, but the PSTN end on that first call will have to hang up and answer the call again. I haven’t tried this, but I think this is how the scenario will be.

    Nonetheless, you’re pointing out a very valid scenario and a very valid concern about Ooma.

  3. Senaka has detailed one of the possible problems. If you have Calll Waiting on your line, then I believe it is imperative that all calls set up through it by the OOMA hub begin with the Cancel Call Waiting (*70 here). It wouldn’t do much good to ring your phone, since there is nothing you can do about the ring. You can’t answer your phone while the OOMA call is in progress (unless you take action to kill it, like by momentarily unplugging the phone wire from the hub, plugging it into a regular phone without the hub, and waiting for it to rering. A lot of people will quickly learn this trick, thus destroying the useability of the OOMA service.

    What happens if the OOMA hub does not send the Cancel Call Waiting code (e.g., if the OOMA engineers didn’t think of this detail)? The originating OOMA subscriber will hear the Call Waiting tone and be very confused. All all they can do is ignore it or hang up. Meanwhile, the person calling you is hearing audile ringing and wonders why you don’t answer, although you don’t know it. Another confusion factor to destroy your service.

    What if the OOMA engineers tried to deal with this. The hub could detect Call Waiting tone, disconnect the present call, and then handle the new ring for the new call. This would allow you to receive a call when someone else is using your line, but would disconnect the OOMA call, not something that would make OOMA subscribers too happy with their service.

    Another possibility in some areas is to have Call Waiting with Calling Line ID (another expensive service). When the line is busy with an OOMA call, the hub could detect the Call Waiting tone and receive the Calling Line ID data, thus providing the user with the number of the call they missed. Of course, that would require a display on the hub. The pictures I saw didn’t appear to have a display.

  4. Hot off the press. Just found this on home.businesswire.com:

    August 9, OOMA announces Pre-sales. The announcement includes the following two statements:

    1. “This announcement contains forward-looking statements … Actual results may differ significantly from management’s expectations.”

    2. “Purchasers during the promotional period will have this no monthly charge service for at least three years.”

    You can interpret these anyway you want, but to me they mean:

    1. OOMA is making wild claims and, if they don’t work, you can’t blame them.
    2. “Free service for life” is only guaranteed to be 3 years.

    Anybody willing to bet $400 on those terms?

  5. Here’s the problem I’ve had with Ooma. Their customer service is the worst. I purchased the Ooma one day, but then I realized that I might not stay with broadband, so I called the very next morning to cancel. I got a cancellation notice after about three times trying to get through. With all due respect to the customer service personnel, it took each and every one of them fifteen minutes to find my order. They billed my credit card anyway. I called them to once again make sure they weren’t going to send it. I get an email telling me that the Ooma is on its way. I had to call them up (after they never responded to my emails or at the Live Help Desk. I got them to not send the product, but I have yet to get a refund. I’m still trying to get a refund.
    I don’t recommend purchasing an item only to have no customer service to back you up.

  6. REALLY who cares if you can’t have call waiting. Honestly, I don’t answer my phone that much but I have it b/c I want to make calls from time to time and I don’t want ppl calling me on my company phone. I just bought OOMA last week and with an ROI of 6 months I could care less if it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles. I will just be glad to stop having a MONTHLY REOCCURRING BILL!

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