While we’re spending our time pushing our Destroy Your Landline Contest, wherein you the readers are implored to destroy your traditional landline phones, something comes up that makes us want to perhaps hold on to ours. Ooma is a new Vonage-like VoIP service that tweaks the formula just enough to perhaps survive where companies like SunRocket have failed.
The VoIP ideal has been around, and VoIP to VoIP calls are almost always free. Calling to a traditional landline, though, has some costs associated with it (per-call or monthly). It’s these costs that have added up and made problems for other VoIP providers. Ooma has come up with a fairly innovative way to literally skirt these costs, and it could make all the difference.
Ooma is free to use. You’ll need to buy its proprietary hardware, and at $399 it’s something of a significant investment. But when you consider all of your phone calls (within the USA) from your home phone will be free forever, consider it a down payment on your future.
Most traditional landline to VoIP hardware consists of a centralized switch that contains the actual magic. Ooma uses a base station and “satellite” switches (called Scouts) to de-centralize your Home Phone Network (I’m trademarking that, don’t try it).
Most traditional landline to VoIP providers also dial you into the nearest neighborhood switch, which are spaced in urban areas every half-mile or so, and in rural areas every few miles, no matter how close the person you’re calling is.
Ooma, though, likes to go peer-to-peer. Your Ooma base station doesn’t just allow you to make calls, it helps others make theirs. If there’s another Ooma base station closer to the person you’re calling than a switch, then it’s used instead. Rad.
If enough people start using Ooma over the Internet, eventually the public phone network will be used less and less. Peer-to-peer is definitely the future of the Internet, and Ooma might prove it’s the future of all communications.
Ooma launches tomorrow morning, and it’s viral marketing team is being headed up by a little-known actor named Ashton Kutcher (whom this dude Arrington is interviewing for our TalkCrunch sister site). You’ll be hearing a lot about it soon.
Look for an MTV-crowd push (does MTV-crowd mean anything anymore? I’m over 30, I wouldn’t know) all over the place, with upcoming pay-to-download features being added to match thsoe of some cellphones (ringtones, for example, and impossible-to-play games).
Add to that the impressive line-up of coaches that the company has assembled and these guys have become one to watch. Check them out tomorrow morning.
Ooma [Product Site]