Ooma's Unlimited Home Phone Service?

Thu, 10/08/2009 - 16:18 -- Team Ooma

Dear Ooma Users,

It seems that we’re still confusing people.  Couple that with the Internet practice of  “Ready. Fire.  Aim.” and we’ve created a perfect storm.  There have been a lot of posts here that have been just factually incorrect, and it has created additional confusion that I hope this post helps to clear up.

I’m going to try to lay out for everyone what “Unlimited” service means and why minutes per month are discussed as part of an unlimited service – either the 3,000 minutes per month since September of 2007 or the new 5,000 minutes per month in the recently revised terms & conditions.  I’m going to try this without the legal jargon and definitions that permeate typical terms and conditions documents.  So I’ll ask you to not try to read between the lines or try to be the next Perry Mason, but simply engage in a dialog about the rationale behind our policies.

First, and most importantly, our product offers unlimited residential phone service.  Period.  No limit on minutes, no hidden fees, no “bait and switch”.  Here’s the big “but” in the definition of unlimited.  We designed this service as a home phone or residential system and have consistently promoted it this way.  We do not want, and cannot afford, to have businesses begin to utilize the service consuming a huge volume of call traffic and driving our monthly call termination charges through the roof.

We humans, being what we are, will constantly “work the system” to save money.  But if we don’t at least police our system to prevent abuse – use of our service in obviously non-residential ways – then the ultimate impact is born by you the respectful Ooma user.  Abuse of the service by non-residential users drives up costs, decreases reliability, stretches our systems beyond their intended application, and puts at risk your reliance on the vital communications service we extend to you.

So how do we police the system to ensure compliance?  One of the tools we use is to look at the nominal amount of minutes per month your account consumes.  Can a residential user go over this?  Yes. And they frequently do during times of family emergency, weddings, etc.  That’s perfectly fine with us.  But when we see month after month use of more than 5,000 minutes it sets off a red flag that the calling patterns of that number should be more closely evaluated.

Once again, residential use is not a problem, non-residential or business use is not desired, hence the $39.99/mo fee for non-residential use in our terms and conditions.  We’re really trying to tell you we don’t want you to use Ooma as a commercial business phone service replacement.  So what does this mean if you have a home office?  Most likely nothing.  We know that a lot of our current users use their Ooma system with a home office, and our Premier package includes a number of supporting features. We will introduce a business version of our service next year, but it will not be the same business model as the Ooma Telo or the Ooma Hub.

How did we decide what number of minutes constitutes residential service?  A little bit of guessing and a whole lot of experience over the last 2 years.  The average number of minutes consumed by Ooma subscribers is just 400+ minutes per month.  The number of Ooma accounts that fall into the 5,000+ minute per month category is less than 0.1%, but they consume a huge percentage of the total monthly phone call connection fees we have to pay.  Call volume in some of these cases exceeds 10,000 minutes per month - almost 6 hours a day, 7 days a week, on the phone.

I hope this helps you understand how and why we’ve come to the decisions we have made regarding the use of Ooma as a residential phone service and why we have to be diligent about protecting the integrity of Ooma’s residential phone service. I love the fact that a lot of you have written to me privately as well as multiple blog posts sharing your opinions with me, both positive and negative.  I read all these emails and posts and try to respond to as many as possible.

Thank you for being an Ooma customer.

Best regards,

Rich Buchanan
Chief Marketing Officer
Ooma, Inc.


Submitted by Ron on

Can you disable the voice mail on the OOMA base unit and receive VM on the attached phone with that capability... I turned on VM on my phone (attached to OOMA unit) and it used the Bluetooth feature to forward to my cell #. Very strange!


Submitted by Moe Ali on

Hello, thanks for clarification. I was never confused in the first place, but again thanks for clarifying. I have had Ooma since the beginning of the year and I'm really happy with the service. I don't know how many minutes we use but I know we barely get anywhere near 2000. I really love Ooma and your service is great. I hope it would stay this way.

Submitted by Seth on

great explanation! Totally makes sense to me. You have to make some rules black & white to prevent abuse.

Submitted by Mihir on

May be we should all start a "Bring back free voicemail" campaign. This is ridiculous! It's like comcast offering Internet without 404 pages!

Submitted by Denny on

Hi Rich,

Thanks for the detailed explanation about the residential minute limit!

I understand and totally agree with your assessment. In fact, IMO, it would be perfectly alright to go back to the 3,000 minute limit if it would eliminate or reduce the new fees. I wonder, if most of your termination expenses are from the 0.1 percent of users that are doing this month after month, why not terminate their service? They are obviously not using the phone for residential purposes if they continue the practice. If they want to use Ooma for these purposes, I think it's OK, but why not have them pay instead of imposing fees on all of us?

I do agree with the residential minute limit; however, I disagree with having voicemail a Premier only option. (Is that the latest decision? Difficult to tell with all the postings here :) I do agree that some VM services might be limited, but what's wrong with doing it the way it was before, i.e., having some elements of VM a Premiere service but having the basic service? I'm wondering what incentive a box owner would have to not use the messaging cababilities built into the attached phone. And when I upgrade to Telo, what should the new owner who gets the old Hub do with all those thingies on the box?

Just some things to ponder... :)

Submitted by kirsten on


(This may not be the right forum for this question....My apologies)

I was referred to Ooma by my brother, an IT guru. I live in an isolated area, thankfully I can have DSL but at times it can be spotty...I'll lose the signal at least a few times a month. It can remain out for a few hours. Will Ooma be a good fit with these circumstances? I realize when the internet is down Ooma will be too. My question is does Ooma require a 'tight' DSL or cable service? We only have a small company that covers our area. Also will all internet providers allow Ooma to be used. The internet provider we use also sells telephone service as well (at outrageous prices). Thank you.

Submitted by Don on

Thanks for the clarifcation, I think I am one of the 99.9% of users that are using around 400 minutes a month. And unless I get 10 mother-in laws there is no way I will even come close to the 5000 minutes.

However I have a question about fees ooma is charged. Are minutes really the where ooma has the expense, or is it connection fee?

Submitted by Shane on

So, if minutes for residential service is unlimited, then why advertise the 3000 to 5000 minute change as an upgrade?

If that number is only for those trying to use Ooma for their business, then it shouldn't be advertised as a reason you're raising prices and removing features.

Submitted by XAVIER on

Sorry we still can not endorse the new Telo product.

Simply put. New fees. No Voice mail. No sale.

Submitted by Chad on

I don't get the hang up on the limit of 3000 and now 5000 minutes per month. I have been a happy user since 03/2009. Love My Ooma and the money it is saving me. Most important I don't want the abusers to ruin it for the every day Joe like me. Get the business line if you are using it for business.

Vonage has the same limit for residential service of 5000 minutes per month.

If you like Vonage you will love Ooma. I was with Vonage for 4 years. If you don't like the Bell companies you will REALLY love Ooma.

I will see my Ooma return on investment in 12/2009.

Submitted by Ray Waldo on

Thanks Rich:

My concern was not over the 5000 minutes. However, your explanation about how it relates to a home user (especially in extraordinary circumstances) is very helpful.

Nor was/is the increased cost of the Premier Service my primary concern. (Although it does seem to be inconsistent that the annual cost = 12 X monthly cost since normally, there is a discount to pre-paying for a year.)

My primary concern is still for the future purchasers of the hub/scout combo. Will that combo continue to be available for at least the near term? And, will future purchasers of the hub/scout be given the same TOS as current owners? Will all such customers always have a "no cost" option?

When/if the hub/scout combo is replaced, will you offer a similar TOS for the replacement device?

Submitted by Jonathan on

Just wanted to say that I am a new customer.Ooma is a very impressive voip service.They listen and respond to there customers and offer premier services at affordable rates.
Way to go ooma!!


Submitted by Bryan on

Thanks Rich. I think this sums everything up perfectly. Keep up the good work.