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Portable telephone service - A landline alternative that won't break the bank

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Published: May 31, 2012    Updated: Jun 19, 2012    Views 5058    Comments 0
This article is also available in: Polski

ou say if you could have a home phone service for roughly the cost of an average month’s bill - for the entire year? And use it anywhere in the world to make free international calls.

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Frustrated - that’s what my wife and I were while customers of Comcast. Every month our cable bill came in higher than the previous month. My wife called Comcast's customer service and asked if
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Majority of the people that I spoke with already canceled their home phone service or they are seriously thinking about dropping it. The reason is simple, the landline service is expensive and becomes obsolete. It’s mostly being replaced by cellular service. Almost everyone I know have their own cell phone and use their home phones sporadically. With the cellular family service plans, the free mobile to mobile and included long distance it just doesn't make sense to keep paying for landline service.

However, some people still need to have a separate home phone number, such as for home business or just want to keep their number. The great landline alternative is VoIP or Voice over IP that use internet connection to place and receive phone calls. Some of the well known services is Comcast, which is pretty expensive in my opinion. More affordable is Vonage but not as cheap as I would like. Then there is the MagicJack that is less than $30 bucks for the year - that I can work with.

I first heard of MagicJack a long time ago and was considering it but was discouraged by their unprofessional website and lack of information that I was looking for. Additionally their original device required a PC to be always running, which I’m not sure that would be convenient. But with the recent release of the updated device (MagicJack Plus) that doesn’t require a PC, I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised - everything worked like a charm.

The MagicJack Plus is a small device, roughly the size of two fingers, that plugs into any stationary telephone via regular telephone cable and a wired network via Cat5 cable to be used as a standalone device, or to an USB port on the computer. I like the part that it can be plugged in directly to the router and not rely on the dedicated computer to be always on. And the cool feature that it can work from anywhere in the world to place free international calls, which I’ll explain in more detail below.

After using it for few months, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Here are my observations:

The Pros:
  • The MagicJack Plus is $69.99, but it includes 1 year service. After that it’s very cheap service - $29.95 a year. With my old service I paid more per month.
  • The MagicJack Plus does not require computer and it’s very portable.
  • Existing phone number can be ported to MagicJack service
  • Place free local and long distance calls to any number in U.S. or Canada, no matter where in the world the device is used. This gave me a great idea for free international calls to my relatives in Poland. I bought another device, activated it with a local number to my area and sent it to my sister. Now we can call each other without limits for free. How awesome is that!
  • It can be connected into house telephone wires and used with multiple phones, but with the condition that the wiring is disconnected from the old service line. This can be done from the telephone company box outside of the house. If you still have dial tone on the line then it won’t work with MagicJack.
  • MagicJack smartphone app can be used with any active account to make and receive calls without the physical device. Great if you are away from home and don’t want to miss any important call. Ideal for home business.
    All the features are managed via online account from http://my.magicjack.com


The Cons:
  • The device needs fast internet connection to function properly
  • Depending on the router, may need to configure the device to use static IP (default is dynamic). But when I plugged it in, it worked within seconds even before activation, and I didn’t have to make any changes in the router configuration since then.
  • Activation needs to be done by plugging the device into USB on the computer and it may be somewhat confusing for a novice. But for most part I found it to be straightforward. There are some parts that they will try to suggest upgrading the service or pay for extra features. Make sure you read every step carefully.
Resources
1. MagicJack website
2. Wikipedia - VoIP phone
About the Author
Henry Limowski is a freelance writer who shares his knowledge about personal finance and business catering to Polish community living in the U.S. He is dedicated to spreading financial awareness to help people save money. He's the president of QUELL Technologies, LLC, a parent company that owns PodatekDochodowy.com and AmigoLife.com among others.
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