Updated July 15, 2012
The Ooma Telo VOIP telephone system is one of the coolest gadgets out there. For about $200 bucks it's a leap of faith, but my experience is highly positive. My system has been running since January 2010 and I've easily recovered my initial investment. I have excellent telephone service, and only need to look forward to continued savings. Most importantly my wife who was originally deeply suspicious of another too tech gadget doesn’t even notice, it's that well done. My only regret was that I didn't port my telephone number right away. Do it, here is a short note on porting. Porting is the way to keep your current andline telephone number when you sign up for the service.
I purchased my Ooma Telo at Costco. At the time I got $100 dollars of international calling credits as part of the purchase. At the rate I do international calling I figured this would last the rest of my life. Later, about a year, the credits disappeared. Talking to Ooma they said such credits are good for one year only. I didn’t recall seeing such a disclaimer on the box when I bought it, so think Ooma is a being a bit cheap. I think instead they should offer $10 or $20 worth of credits (or whatever amount) and honor those credits until used.
First Decision - Wiring in the Ooma Telo
How to set up the Ooma Telo can vary a lot depending upon your wants and needs, and the existing wiring in your home. I wanted to replicate my existing setup in my home as if we still subscribed to AT&T. This meant keeping all the old corded phones, my wired fax in the den, and everything else operationally the same. Significantly, I wanted the Telo to be located in the kitchen next to the wall phone, just like the answering machine it was slated to replace. The much simpler way as suggested by Ooma is to just locate the Telo next to the internet modem and instead just use cordless telephones sprinkled through the house.
Because the Ooma Telo uses the internet to transmit telephone calls, this adds other complications. I spent several months trying out several configurations until finally settling on what I have now, which is close to the most complicated way of setting up the system, but I'm happy with the result. What follows is a building block of scenarios. The first and most important decision is where to physically locate the Telo. The Telo must be hardwired via cat5 cable to the modem so this can be a limiting factor.
Option A: Simple ' Easy
Follow the suggested installation procedures from Ooma. This is probably just fine for most folks. Locate the Telo adjacent to the internet modem. Using the telephone jack in the back of the Ooma Telo, connect to a cordless telephone. Buy one of those multiple telephones cordless telephone packages and spread them around the house and you're done! The diagram below by Ooma illustrates how this works.
Typical scenario: Your internet modem (cable or DSL) is located somewhere out of the way in the house. You now have that plugged into a wireless router that services devices such as a laptop, iPod, or a Kindle wirelessly. Locate the Telo in the same same spot and, with wires, connect it between the modem and router with cat5 cables. Plug your cordless telephone base unit into the Telo here.
Option B: Use Existing House Telephone Jacks
A slight modification from above, this involves some electrical work. This can take some hand work, but if you aren't afaid of trying its worth it. A lot depends how your house is wired for telephone service. In a few homes the street service telephone wire is run to a central location, a hub, and then run radially outward from there to each wall jack. Called structured wiring, this is the best way to wire, but also the most expensive. Most homes are wired like the diagrams shown below, in series, from wall jack to jack to jack. Telephone wires are skinny little wires and easy to work with as they are low voltage. The parts shown below are all available at home centers. Following are scenarios that depend upon your choice of internet provider.
Here's a web link that discuss's telephone wiring: http://www.wire-your-phones.com/
Option C: Re-Wire In-House Telephone Wiring. Ultimately what I ended up doing. I was remodeling and also stringing Ethernet cable throughout anyway. The home run diagram shown below is the best arrangement to satisfy all requirements. All parts of the home are served regardless of type of internet service. This can take a lot of work. Home stores carry the needed parts. If you go to this level of work, run Ethernet cables alongside the telephone wiring too. Google structured wiring for more information. Advantage of this setup is potential to physically locate the Telo away from the modem where it can be accessed.
Deciding how to Integrate the Ooma Telo into your Network
As the Ooma Telo is your telephone provider and answering machine in the same package an overlapping decision to the wiring discussion above is unit placement. In my case the internet modem is in the basement in a wiring closet, but the Telo is in the kitchen where its answering machine functions can be manually accessed, so it's very easy for the family to adapt. The work for me was to run a cat5 cable from the basement to an outlet in the kitchen. Not so hard, a cordless drill and coat hanger to fish the wire, a keyhole saw to cut the sheetrock for a new outlet, a trip to Home Depot for the parts. The Telo then feeds into the house phone network at that location. Where the Telo is to be located and whatever else is going in your home network drive the next decision.
Second Decision “ Place the Telo in Front, or Behind the Router
Ooma recommends wiring the Telo between the modem and router. The Ooma Telo has effective quality of service (QOS) algorithms built in that prioritize telephone traffic in from of everything else thus assuring the best possible telephone call quality. To optimize that it is important to read and understand the Ooma knowledge base article on Configuring Quality of Service. Frankly, there are few reasons to do anything else, but here are some anyway.
Regardless, there are legitimate reasons to want to go against the generic installation recommendations of Ooma and install your Telo behind your home or business outer. It's really not all that difficult and can still result with perfectly acceptable telephone service. The only prerequisite is a solid understanding of your own routers model QOS configurations.
How to Configure the Ooma Telo behind a Router
When the Ooma Telo is wired behind the router then it is the router QOS that must prioritize Ooma traffic to the front of the line or telephone quality will suffer. The following is a picture of my networking arrangement where the Telo is wired behind the router.
The following steps the Ooma Telo is wired behind a router with an Ethernet cable plugged into the internet port of the Telo and the other end into the router.
No matter what, the Telo requires first priority for bandwidth so the next steps are mandatory. As the QOS settings are now disabled, the router must provide that same unctionality. The Telo must be on and connected to the router. The following are written for the free Tomato router operating software. I prefer the TomatoUSB variant located here instead.
So that's it. When the Ooma is in front of the router its own QOS setting determine voice quality. Without question the Ooma built in QOS is highly capable and preferred solution if it can be made to work for your situation. Alternatively, done correctly, a setup behind a router can also function as well for voice quality and allow other nrelated devices to operate without interference.