Young Palo Alto firm ooma today revealed a new Internet phone system that it believes could change the American approach to long-distance calls. Based around an ooma Hub plugged into an Internet connection, the system lets any analog phone attached to an ooma Scout peripheral automatically make VoIP calls as though they were on a normal phone line; the use of an online peer-to-peer technology lets the company not only avoid running large numbers of servers but eliminate the connection costs for reaching physical lines or cellphones. Any calls made inside the US become free as a result, ooma says.
The system also takes advantage of its nature to serve as an automatic second phone line and to provide better features than analog service; call preferences and voicemail can be accessed online, and dial tone is customizable through an audio interface.
Currently in beta, ooma is testing its service with the public through an invite-only method named White Rabbit that delivers a free ooma Hub and Scout set as well as three invites to friends, who themselves get similar treatment if they sign up. Live service begins in the fall and will cost $399 for the central Hub (which supports one phone) and $39 for each Scout unit. International calls will be possible for an unspecified rate that will be payable online.