Replacing landline with VoIP+Cellular
I currently have a landline provided by SBC/ATT costing me $25-$35/mo that I have been wanting to replace for quite some time. I have 3Mb/s cable modem service, and was waiting for Charter Communications to come forth with its 'imminent' telephone service. They finally called a few weeks ago and offered me unlimited telephone service for $39/mo - no savings at all.
The real issue with this (and Vonage, and my new mobile provider's 'unlimited' plan) is that I don't really need unlimited service. Our combined local, long distance, and mobile (x2) usage is <300 minutes per month.
I want to completely replace my existing landline with some combination of my existing mobile and broadband services, and attempt to save the $400-$600/yr I have been paying to SBC/ATT.
Although I have done some research, I would very much appreciate some insight from those that have done this before. Here are the facts:
- I want to drop my residential landline. Residential, not business (or even small business).
- I currently have 3Mb/s cable modem service, via Charter Communications.
- VoIP local number (Skype-in, Vonage, Gizmo, SIP-in, etc) does not seem to be an option here on the California Central Coast (San Luis Obispo). I have not found any VoIP service that can provide me a local telephone number. None have a local point-of-presence. The closest would be up in Silicon Valley or down in Ventura county - either >200 miles away. "Having a prestige area code" arguments aside, most of the calls we receive are placed locally. Forcing our friends to call us using local-long-distance (the highest possible rates) would be very unfriendly.
- Number portability seems to not be an option here on the California Central Coast (San Luis Obispo). (Same reason as above, I suppose.)
- I am aware of 911 calling issues. In our area, only Vonage supports it. We still have 911 service on our mobile phones. If we reuse our cordless phones, I can program an autodial number for police, fire, etc (although these are non-emergency numbers). I can put the router and cable modem on a UPS in case of power outage.
- Our mobile account (via Cellular One) has 600 mins/month for 2 phones, with nation-wide long distance and California-wide local calling area (no roaming in CA). This a very old plan that is much better than the currently offered plans. If make any changes, I will be "promoted" to a newer plan, where the second phone goes from $5/mo to $19/mo and my local calling area shrinks to SLO county. The latter would be a killer, since I frequently travel between the SF Bay Area and LA.
- I have a small network of machines, using a Linksys BEFSR41 switch/router connected to the Motorola Surfboard SB4200 cable modem. I also have an Apple Airport wireless network (behind the router). I have read instances where placing VoIP hardware on the DMZ and/or between router and cable-modem may improve quality of service. I am open to replacing the Linksys router, as it is a complete piece of crap.
- I was considering getting an analog-to-VoIP box so I could reuse my existing 3 satellite cordless phone system. This benefits my wife ( the techno-luddite whose doesn't even use auto-dial ) as well as the convenience of cordless phones.
- Although I run a small home business out of my home, I don't think I need an asterisk-like PBX. Most of my business communication uses email, instant messaging, and video conferencing using iChatAV.
- My wife is English, with family and a small business in England (UK). Most communications are via email, but she does make 10-30 minutes of calls to the UK each month. Although we have 'free' US long-distance on our mobile phones, international calls from our mobiles are prohibitively expensive, so this should be covered by VoIP (or calling cards?).
- My primary desktop and servers are Mac OS X, so Windows-only software is not an option. I am considering Skype or Gizmo software-only service as they are Mac-friendly (especially Gizmo).
- My goal is to reduce telecom costs, so I don't want to fork out $500-$1000 for new hardware. I can probably justify $50-$150 initial outlay. $25-$40/mo services are out of the question, since they cost as much or more than I am paying now for my landline service.
- I am reasonably technically competent (note my numerous EE expert certifications), so I am comfortable setting up hardware/software/services. My wife, however, would not tolerate an overly complicated super-geek solution for daily use.
That is basically a dump of what I have been mulling around in my brain. I look forward to hearing your advice and experiences.