Phones, phones, phones!

So this week I’m up to my eyeballs in phones.  I’m replacing our old, trusty Uniden cordless phones with some slick, new Siemens Gigaset phones.  The new setup will be one of the “hybrid” models (the S675IP) that will allow them to use both our existing wired “POTS” phone line from Cox, and the new voice-over-IP (VOIP) service.  I have been using VOIP for work and for HamGadgets for a while now, and have things stable enough that I think it’s time to start seeing how well it will meet our day to day needs for the household.

The advantages are pretty big.  VOIP calling can reduce our monthly bill by quite a margin.  We’re currently paying Cox around very close to $50 per month for a single line, plus a nickel a minute for long distance.  That seems high, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s $17.65 for the line itself.  Then tack on $14.99 for what we would consider to be very standard features like caller ID, call waiting CID, call waiting, etc.  Now add on over $6 in fees (“FCC charge” and “extended local calling area”).  Now add on yet another $8.51 in other fees and taxes, and you’re at  $47.52 – before any long distance calls are made!  Wow.

Compare this to the cost of going VOIP.  Startup cost will be $25 to port the number over so we keep the same phone number.  After that, it’s $6.95 per month for unlimited (unmetered) inbound calls.  Add on $1.39 for E911 service, so we can call 911 and they will get the correct information on screen.  Now all of our outbound calls (local and long distance) will cost us…  but it’s 0.98 cents per minute, anywhere in the continental US.  Toll-free calls still don’t cost anything.  So let’s assume we use (let’s pick a random large integer) 1200 minutes a month of outbound calling, that’s 20 hours of phone time.  Maybe more, maybe less…  but remember, it doesn’t matter if it’s local or long distance.  That adds $11.76 in charges, bringing the grand total to…  just a little over $20, or well under half the current bill.

So, the new phones will let us use the existing phone line in parallel with VOIP calling for a few weeks to decide whether VOIP is going to work for us.  It will also give me a chance to get our Asterisk system tweaked and tuned to meet our needs… like being able to nuke telemarketers, get better caller ID, etc.  Of course we’ll have to live without Cox plastering the caller ID across half the TV screen every time the phone rings.

Oh well.