How It Works - more
ooma recognizes that a number of potential customers have already "cut the cord" and no longer have traditional phone service. They may rely solely on a cell phone, or may want to use the ooma service to replace their traditional phone service. For these customers, ooma offers a stand-alone version. You merely sign up for the service, choose an area code, and set up the device when it arrives from ooma. It will have the same features as the landline version—i.e., an Internet answering machine and an instant second line.
In addition, like the landline version, ooma will attempt to terminate your calls using distributed termination. The main difference, beyond the reliability and 911 features of your traditional landline, is that you won’t be participating in ooma’s peer-to-peer network. Since you don’t have a phone line, you won’t be terminating any calls or sharing your bandwidth with ooma.
The key to ooma’s success is having subscribers participate in their peer-to-peer network and be willing to terminate calls for other ooma subscribers. Currently, ooma has a single pricing structure for both the landline and the standalone version. However, that may change in the future, according to Dennis Peng, ooma Co-Founder. ooma may use differential pricing to encourage people to choose the landline configuration. Still, according to Peng, ooma’s mathematical models show that the ooma peer-to-peer network could reach 95% of the US population with as few as 2000 landline subscribers.
There’s really not a lot of setup involved with connecting the ooma Hub to your home network. ooma provides a well-illustrated quick start guide to help you get connected. It provides directions for three possible Internet connection configurations (computer connected directly to cable/DSL modem, modem connected to an existing router, or integrated router/modem) as well as directions for three possible phone configurations (cable Internet, DSL/phone on separate lines, and DSL/phone on the same line).
Figure 1: ooma Hub rear view
The ooma Hub is actually a simple Linux-based Internet router, with one WAN (marked "Modem") and one LAN (marked "Home") port. The Hub has buttons for two lines as well as playback controls for the Internet message machine. There is also a special "do not disturb" button that automatically forwards incoming calls to voice mail.
By default, the Hub will attempt to auto configure and connect to the Internet. Once connected to the Internet and working with ooma, the clear plastic tab at the rear of the Hub will glow blue, indicating that everything is working.
ooma recommends that, if possible, the Hub should be connected directly to your cable/DSL modem. However, if you have an existing network, you can simply connect the "Modem" jack to an Ethernet port on your existing LAN and not use the routing features of the Hub. This is the configuration I used, and it worked fine.
If you don’t have an existing LAN, and your computer connects directly to the Internet, you should use the Hub’s router. Although it provides only simple NAT "firewalling", it will provide more protection than having your computer directly connected to the Internet. If you have more than one computer, just connect a switch to the "Home" port, plug the computers (set to obtain their IP addresses automatically) into the switch, and the Hub’s DHCP server will hand out IP info.
Though the Hub has limited configuration options, you can use its web portal for configuration. To do so, you connect your computer to the "Home" port and type in setup.ooma.com (or the IP Address of the Hub). By default, the Hub passes out IP addresses in the 172.27.35.0/24 network. The firmware automatically updates itself, so you don’t have to worry about that.