How to Get Free Home Telephone Service Using Obihai

 

Introduction

 

Our family recently switched from Comcast to AT&T’s U-verse for internet and cable TV. Since AT&T didn’t offer us home phone service, and we weren’t ready to give up our landline yet, we were left searching for a provider. I knew that VoIP would be the solution, and there’s a lot of great options out there for cheap service- magicJack, Vonage, Skype, etc. As my research progressed, I kept finding cheaper options. I had nearly settled on magicJack, and as I was reading the reviews of the magicJack Go on Amazon, another product caught my eye- Obihai!

The Obihai Obi200 is a tiny device that fits in the palm of your hand. The first thing that really stood out to me was the Google Voice logo written very prominently on the front of it. As a long time cellular Google Voice user, I was excited when I saw that I could also use it for residential service as well. Google Voice gives users some awesome options, like:

  • Recording phone calls.
  • Visual voicemail transcripts of calls.
  • The ability to forward calls to other phone numbers.
  • The ability to ring multiple phones.
  • Block unwanted telemarketers and robocallers from calling your house again.
  • Low-priced international call rates.

One downside to using a Google Voice phone number is that you won’t get traditional 911 service. Obihai does a pretty good job of filling this gap, and gives you the option of signing up for E911 service through a 3rd party company called Anveo. The E911 service runs $15/yr for the basic package, or you can pay $25/yr to get alerted if someone dials 911 from your home phone.

The Obi200, and just about any VoIP service, requires a stable, high-speed internet connection, such as broadband or DSL.

The Obi200 is a little more expensive than a magicJack product. But at $45, you can get free home phone service for the rest of your life. If you move, you just take the Obi200 with you and set it up at your new residence. You won’t ever have to worry about porting your phone number to another provider. And it works! Calls are just as clear as they were using Comcast’s telephone service.

 

Obi200
  • Features
  • Price
  • Reliability
  • Ease-of-use
  • Documentation

Summary

The Obi200 is a device that I now wonder how I lived without for so long. It harnesses the power of Google Voice to give you free features not found in traditional service provider's plans. It's dead simple to install and set up. It has the potential to dramatically bring down your home telephone bill. Comcast's plan just for telephone service was $45/month, the Obi200 is $15-25/yr if you want E911 service. Otherwise the service is free!

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Getting started

 

You’ll need to have a Google account to use Google Voice.



You can get ahead of the game by performing these next two steps when you order your Obihai device. You’ll need a Google account if you don’t already have one. The easiest way to get a Google account is to sign up for Gmail here .


Once you have a Google account, you can set up your Google Voice phone number.



Next, head over to the Google Voice website . You’ll need to create a Google Voice phone number. Once you have that, you are ready to set up the Obihai.

Google Voice

 

If you’re not already familiar with Google Voice, this section will explain in a little more detail about exactly what you are getting.

Google Voice is a free service for Google accounts that basically provides you with a virtual phone number that behaves exactly like any other phone number, but adds useful features. You can take calls on the Google Voice number, or have them forwarded to your home or cell phone number. You can use your Google Voice number to shield your other phone numbers from annoying telemarketers, scammers, or anyone else that you don’t want to have your other phone numbers. It’s a great way to add a little privacy to your online accounts because of the ease at which you can block future calls.

Although there are ways to port your existing number over to Google Voice, you won’t be able to do it without first porting it to a cell phone line. You’ll have to pay a carrier to do this for you. Otherwise, there is no charge to obtain a phone number. Another limitation is that you can only get a phone number for your area if one is available. With more people dropping their landlines and exclusively using their mobile phone, this is less of problem today than it was a few years ago.

The slideshow below shows the Google Voice website you’ll see when you login, and goes through the available settings. This is more for illustrative purposes, since I normally use the Google Voice app. The app will be able to do everything the website does as well as provide you with push notifications for voicemails, missed calls, etc.


Slideshow- Tap or click to view

A menu will fly out showing you all of the available options, as well as a description of the icons. Any texts to your Google Voice number or Hangouts will show up under Messages.

The Calls menu will show all incoming and outgoing calls.

The Voicemail menu will list all of your new and old voicemails. Unread voicemails will be marked. You can either read the transcript or listen to the voice message.

The three dots is the Settings menu. It’s broken down into sections that you access by scrolling down. The Phone numbers section shows your Google Voice number, allows you to link multiple phones (there’s a verification process), and to turn on Do not disturb.

Messages gives you the option to alert you of messages using another phone number or through email.

Calls lets you forward calls from your Google Voice number to another phone. If you use your cell phone number, you’ll never miss another call while away from home! This will ring all numbers simultaneously, so think about the setup you want to avoid annoyances. You can set up screened calling here (callers will get a prompt to state their name), as well as enable recording and conference calling. There’s also a toggle for email alerts for missed calls.

Voicemail settings include text and email alerts.

Web notifications and Payments settings. If you want to use international calling, you’ll need to add money to your account.

Keep unwanted callers out by setting the Security setting to filter spam callers. You’ll still have access to the calls and voicemail, much like your email spam folder, but the calls won’t come through.



What’s in the box?

 

Tap or click for larger image



Your Obi200 will ship with the unit, power adapter, Ethernet cable, and Quick Start guide. It’s a remarkably complicated device that’s designed so that anyone can install it with ease.

Setting up an Obi200

 

Tap or click for larger image



The device is simple enough. There’s a 12VDC power jack, a USB port, an RJ-11 telephone jack, and an RJ-45 Ethernet port on the back. Installation consists of plugging it into a wall outlet, plugging in your telephone cable, and then plugging the device into your network. Obihai offers a WiFi adapter that you can plug into the USB slot if you can’t hardwire it using an Ethernet cable.

Once you have your device hooked up, you’ll visit Obihai’s website . Create an account (you can sign in using Google+ of the account you just created). From there, you’ll follow the on-screen prompts.





One word of caution before you begin- do not try to sign up for Anveo E911 service from Anveo’s website! For the automatic Obihai configuration to work, you must sign up through Obihai’s website.

Follow the slideshow below for instructions:


Slideshow- Tap or click to view

Sign in with your Google account.

If you’ve never set up an account with Obihai, you should see this prompt to set up a new device. Click Yes.

The I want to configure Google Voice on this device box should already be checked. Click Next.

You’ll be given a code to dial that will expire in 120 seconds. Call it and follow the voice prompts. Your phone is now active, and you can call any other Obi number. You can dial **9 222 222 222 to test your Obi200.

Make sure you’re on Device Configuration. Choose your time zone and DST preferences. Don’t forget to click Save. Next click the Google Voice Set-Up button.

If you get lost (it’s not hard to do if you click on the wrong link), you can easily get back to the Device Configuration screen. First, click the Obi Dashboard link, then click on the Obi200 link.

Next you’ll set up your Google Voice number. You’ll see a prompt saying 911 service is not offered by Google Voice. Click Accept. You’ll set up an E911 service after the Google Voice setup.

You can read the Google Voice Terms of Service, or just click Accept.

Primary Line for Outgoing Calls should be checked. Type in your Google Voice 3-digit area code. There’s also an option to use this phone number with a security alarm! Click Save when you’re finished.

You’ll now see the first slot is occupied by your Google Voice number.

The next step is to sign up for E911 service (optional). Do not navigate away from Obihai’s website or you’ll have to manually configure these settings yourself! Click the Anveo E911 Sign-Up button for the automatic configuration process. Follow the on-screen prompts. When complete, you can dial 933 to test your E911 service.

Finally, you’ll see Anveo in slot 2 with Registered next to it.



Conclusion

 

The Obi200 is a fantastic device that provides quality phone clarity. The addition of Google Voice gives you many features that give you back control over telemarketers and robocallers. Even if you have telephone service bundled in with your cable and internet, it may be worth taking a look at this device to replace your service to help weed out unwanted calls. If you currently have a home phone service that you are paying $45/month for, it’s definitely something you want to check out!

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About Adam Bollmeyer

I'm a home technology enthusiast with a penchant for home automation, networking, and computers. My goal is to help others improve their knowledge of how available technology can be used at home.