That headline doesn’t quite cover it. Actually, we transferred our landline to Google Voice, and super charged our Internet bandwidth, and gained some cool call forwarding/voicemail features, and are saving $46 per month with our new voice-over-IP (VoIP) setup.
It wasn’t simple – there is a multi-step process – but you don’t need to be an IT geek to do it either. Grey, our 17-year-old son, led the effort. And, of course, there were some upfront costs. Read on for details.
First, let me give you some of the backstory on how we got to the breaking point. Until this year, we’ve always had a landline. Nora is a bit of a – what’s the right word – traditionalist. She’s not a technophobe, per se, but she’d be just as happy living in the 19th century. And she has a real aversion to change.
Did I mention that Nora doesn’t have a cell phone? That seems important to mention. Thus the vital need to hang onto the landline.
In March, when the sky began to fall, we instantly had a full house. Pippa was banished from her college, Grey was suddenly high school distance learning, and both Nora and I were told to stay home and telecommute.
Awesome forced family time, but watching my emails come in was like watching a snake digest a rodent. The problem was that Grey was streaming physics lectures, Pippa was Microsoft Teams-ing Spanish class, and Nora was Zoom-ing her school colleagues – all at the same time.
A Bigger Pipe
Within a week, I called in reinforcements:
Comcast charged us $29.99 for the Xfinity installation, then $40.83 a month for their basic “Performance Pro Internet” (up to 200 Mbps downloads). The install also included a combined cable modem and wireless router (a so-called gateway) that they rent to you for $14 a month. To avoid this cost, I bought from Amazon our own ‘renewed’ ARRIS Surfboard (24×8) DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem Plus AC1750 Dual Band Wi-Fi Router and Xfinity Telephone for $129.99.
At the time, we were paying $87.13 a month for DSL (just 2 Mbps!) and ‘Verizon Freedom Essentials’ – unlimited local and domestic long-distance calling – on the landline. It was a bundled package, so I’m not sure what we would’ve saved if we had only dropped DSL, but probably not as much as you’d think/hope.
The difference: $87.13 (Verizon bill) minus $40.83 (Xfinity bill) equals $46.30 per month savings! Assuming we could figure out how to transfer our landline number over to VoIP and drop our Verizon phone service.
We have good friends who ported their landline to Google Voice successfully, so I talked to them and did some independent research. Following are the steps we took, aided by this resource.
- Check to see if Google Voice can port your number here. You will receive one of two messages: “Ooops! This number appears to be from an area we don’t currently support” or “Ooops! We currently don’t support porting from your carrier. We apologize and are working on adding support for more carriers.” The first ‘Ooops’ message means you’re done (your # isn’t portable to Voice), the second ‘Ooops’ means go to step 2.
- Voice can’t accept ports directly from a landline (thus the second ‘Ooops’), so you need to first port to a mobile service number. T-Mobile is reportedly the best carrier for this, so we bought their SIM card for $10 and their cheapest pre-paid plan for $15 per month. We also bought the cheapest ‘unlocked’ phone I could find on eBay – $15.89 including shipping for a Hyundai beauty.
- Activate the SIM choosing a new temporary number and PIN, then call T-Mobile’s activation department to ask to port your old number to your new prepaid SIM account.
- After a day or two, you will receive confirmation that your landline number is now your mobile number. As a result, Verizon automatically canceled our service.
- Go to Voice under ‘Voice Settings’ and request a transfer of your mobile (landline) number. Google charges a one-time porting-in fee of $20 for this.
- After a day or two, Google will confirm the port is complete. Hooray!
- If you forward your calls in Voice to a cell phone(s), then you are done. If you want to live like before, with standard landline-type handsets positioned around the house, then you’ll need to buy an adapter, like the Obihai OBi200 1-Port VoIP Adapter ($49.95 from Amazon).
- Plug your phone into the adapter and the adapter into your modem. You’ll need to create an online OBiTALK account to do a basic configuration.
Our existing house phone worked OK, but what about the second floor phone that formerly plugged into the wall jack in our bedroom? To avoid running a wire to the second floor, I bought a AT&T EL51203 DECT 6.0 Phone with two cordless handsets for $34.95 from Amazon. We only bought two, but it accommodates up to five handsets from a single jack.
Here’s a summary of our transition costs:
$29.99 Xfinity installation charge
$129.99 cable modem and router
$10 T-Mobile SIM card
$15 T-Mobile service plan
$15.89 unlocked cell phone
$20 Google porting fee
$49.95 VoIP handset adapter
$34.95 two house phones
$100 payment to Grey for leading the charge
Grand Total: $405.77 or almost 9 months to recoup startup costs before we begin realizing savings from this change. Most CFOs would call that a pretty rapid payback and an investment worth making.
Now that we’ve had a few months to enjoy our new VoIP Voice setup, following are the Pros and Cons I’ve identified.
- Keep your beloved landline number that you’ve had forever – even if you move across the continent
- Route incoming calls to one or more other numbers (like every family member’s cell phone) so you never miss a call even if you’re on the road
- Set up online voicemail so that messages are recorded and transcribed to text messages or email (I love this)
- If the line is in use, an incoming call won’t receive a busy signal – it will ring like normal, then go into voicemail. (No call waiting either, which might be considered a Con if I didn’t hate it so much.)
- Keep your existing house phone hardware if you want to
- Save moolah
- Google could start charging for Voice someday. It’s been free since 2009, but that could change.
- Emergency 911 calling works great on landlines but not elsewhere. You can’t use Voice for 911 dials and dispatchers have trouble determining a precise location for cell calls.
- When the power goes out, landlines normally still work, but VoIP doesn’t. So you have to use your cell phone in that scenario.
- Internet bandwidth slows when someone is on the phone.
A few months after the transition, I was curious to see if Nora was pleasantly surprised by anything.
Me: Is there anything you like about the new phone setup?
Nora: Ummm…let me think…uhhh…it’s cheaper?
Me: How about how every voicemail is automatically transcribed and emailed to us? Or how we can forward our calls to my cell when we go out of town? Or how we can access Xfinity hotspots in restaurants and airports all around the country?
Nora: Nah, I’m just annoyed that the phone lives in the dining room when I really want it in the kitchen where it used to be…
Me: We can buy another headset…
Nora: And how I can’t hear when someone is leaving a voicemail.
Me: Oh, so you can screen your calls without leaving the recliner.
Nora: Yeah, pretty much.
I’ll have to add that to the Cons list. Although saving $46 per month is a pretty good consolation.