So whats all this hype about Ooma? Who are they? according to their Press release received from their PR agency, The Silicon-Valley start-up, Ooma has intentions of disrupting the telephone experience -- with ooma you'll never pay for long distance again. Their executive team and board members include some big names like Sean Parker (Napster, Facebook) and Mike Ramsey (Founder of TiVo). Founder and CEO Andrew Frame was recently named one of BusinessWeek’s Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs. Well above all, They got Ashton Kutcher, the famous hollywood actor. What is he doing here?
Alright Ooma got big names but does that mean they would succeed in making ooma a totally free voip alternative PSTN service? Let see what they exactly are trying to do.
Ooma works as a Peer to Peer service (similar to Kazaa) People will share their bandwidth for routing calls via their Ooma Boxes. Currently Ooma is giving away Free Ooma boxes to 1500 people in USA since Ooma is currently limited to USA only and no one really knows whether they would look beyond USA. Those 1500 people are chosen by Ooma under invitation only beta. Although I was suppose to get the invite, I am not in USA and can't participate in the beta. I hope once they start looking at other countries, I would be the first one to get a ooma box :-)
Now How Ooma would actually operate. Well just like most other FREE VOIP/Free Call startups (most of them close down within 1 year), Ooma is banking on a loophole in US telecommunication rules. Any calls made within 12 mile radius are free in USA. Ooma is now pushing those 1500 boxes to people who can link each other so that there is always 1 ooma box within 12 mile distance in entire USA, so on paper Ooma has full coverage across USA.
Of course Ooma to ooma calls are free, however ooma gives you a choice to call normal landline phones (no mobile free yet) for FREE. Still not sure how its going to help?
Lets consider an example. I live in New york and my friend is in Los Angeles. I have a ooma box but my frd doesnt have one. So i dial his number from my Ooma box, the call is then routed via peer to peer network (over internet) to the nearest Ooma box user (within 12 miles) from my friend's house and then terminated to his landline via local PSTN line. So ooma to ooma is FREE then it routes through normal PSTN which is also FREE since its within 12 mile radius. Sounds like a good idea but well its totally based on the loophole. What if tommorow governtment changes the policy? lol
Well, Ooma will probably push this product (priced at $399) so hard in the market that everyone will eventually have a ooma box. Thats what they hope, however if they got closed down, will the service continue to run?
Some people reportedly said, ooma won't work if they got closed down without understanding how they exactly work? No one really knows whether they use a Hydrid P2P or pure P2P.
if they use hybrid p2p, then They have a central server that keeps information on peers and responds to requests for that information. I guess this could be required since regulation might require companies to know about their customers and some quality/security issues related to it.
If they use pure P2p, they could have serious legal issues but ooma will continue to run irrespective of the company, coz the peers are responsible for data transfer and there is no central server.
Overall ooma sounds like a great idea. However the loopholes they are using is a huge concern and of course these loopholes wont do any good when they look beyond USA. Lets hope at the end of the day, the consumers WIN
Ooma is starting invitation beta all over again in August.
you might want to get invited to Try the Ooma Box