Back in the 1990’s, I remember living at home with my parents and often after hearing the phone ring whomever answered would announce the caller and say “Hurry Up, it’s Long Distance!” Back in those days, if you were calling outside a small ~10-20 mile radius from your home you were paying per minute for the call. Calls out of the country were insanely priced.
Now of course almost everybody has a cell phone plan where all calls within the US are the same rate (free until you reach a certain number of minutes) so nobody worries about “Long Distance” anymore. Hardly anybody uses a land line at home now with many moving over to phone service provided by their ISP or using Voice-Over IP phone service.
In the past couple of years however, new startup phone companies have begun offering even cheaper unlimited phone services such as from Magic Jack and netTALK. We will take a look at netTALK and Magic Jack as well as the other options in this article.
First, what exactly is Voice-Over IP (VOIP)? Rather than using a series of connected wires like the phone company with analog service between lines (referred to as POTS “Plain Old Telephone Service”), VOIP relies on the digital age and shuffling voice through the internet much like watching a Youtube video. Essentially, you are streaming your voice across the net to the answering party. The VOIP company handles the conversion from digital to analog so POTS users can still talk to you. VoIP technology is so reliable that many emergency services are adopting VOIP 9-1-1 calling.
Many traditional VOIP providers such as Vonage and Lingo rely on a box you have permanently connected to your router and home phone line. ISP based VOIP providers such as Comcast and Verizon are sort of hybrids. Often using the same modem you use to connect to the internet, phone service is re-converted to analog and connected to your house. This allows them to use one set of wires to get into your house and connect you up to the world of the phone system. It’s sort of a hybrid between POTS and VOIP.
Essentially, the service you get from any provider is the same. You get to call anyone with a phone number, you often get Caller ID and voicemail for free, and you pay per month. In almost every case, the VOIP provider will be cheaper than your POTS and Cable company. And in almost every case, the new VOIP providers such as netTALK will be cheaper still.
Let’s look at the following situation: What does it cost for 1 year of phone service that allows you unlimited calling in the USA?
Verizon POTS: $42.99/month = $515.88 for 1 year **Does not have any calling features such as Caller ID, etc.
Verizon FIOS Phone: $44.99/month = $539.88 for 1 year
Vonage: $9.99/month for 3 months, $25.99/month for months 4-12 = $263.88 for 1 year **Includes unlimited calling to 60 additional countries
Lingo: $0/month for 1 month, $23.95/month for months 2-12 = $263.45 for 1 year **Includes unlimited calling to 45 additional countries
Magic Jack Plus: $70 initial cost, $30 a year thereafter = $70 for 1 year
netTALK DUO: $50 initial cost, $30 a year therafter = $50 for 1 year
How about unlimited international calling?
Verizon POTS: Not possible
Verizon FIOS Phone: Not possible
Vonage: $9.99/month for 3 months, $25.99/month for 4-12 = $263.88/year for year 1, $311.88/year after
Lingo: $0/month for 1 month, $23.95/month for 2-12 = $263.45/year, $287.40/year after
Magic Jack Plus: Not Possible
netTALK DUO: $50 initial cost, $30 a year therafter + $120/year for unlimited international calling = $170/year for year 1, $150/year after
So if you want international calling, the netTALK DUO is by far the least expensive at just over $14 a month for the first year.
Essentially the netTALK DUO box is plugged into your router and your phone. You plug the AC power adapter into an outlet and that’s it. It’s online. For $30 a year, you have unlimited national phone service.
netTALK also offers Local Number Portability which allows you to migrate your phone service over and keep the same number. I’ve had it for over a month now and so far it’s been perfect. The call quality is as good as my simultaneous Lingo service and there have been no hiccups. It’s better than my Magic Jack since you don’t need a computer to be on to use it (Magic Jack’s new Plus device requires no computer as well). The unlimited international calls is the icing on the cake.
If you want to save tons of money on your phone service I would highly recommend the netTALK DUO. You won’t notice the difference. And one last plus: If you go on vacation, just take it with you. You can plug it into your computer and use it on-the-go too.