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SmartTools: Phone (Service) in a Box
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By Rich Karpinski

Chances are you may have picked up your small business phone system at OfficeMax or BestBuy, a nice shiny box dumped in a shopping cart.

But you may soon be getting your phone service in a box too.

That's the latest trend from teleco and in particular VoIP (voice over IP) providers. You'll need a broadband connection first -- DSL, cable modem or if you're off is big enough, a T1 (or shared office building T1) connection.

The next steps are easy, but differ depending on the vendor you buy from. But basically it's this: purchase a device at the story, plug it into your broadband connection and you'll start getting free or nearly free -- depending on the service -- phone calling, including international calls.

Two new alternatives launched this week to give you some idea of how they work and if they make sense for your small business. Come along as we take a look at new offerings from Ooma, Sprint and Airave.

Ooma has a funny name and a cool-looking device (see screen shot). The upfront cost is high ($399 for a hub device and $39.95 for "extension" Ooma-phones. But once you install it all your calls are free, delivered over your broadband connection


Ooma


MORE:
USA Today:Want a free phone line? Make rooma for Ooma

Sprint Airave takes a different approach. With this device, you use your existing Sprint cellphone. When you use your cell phone in your home office, calls are routed over the Internet and you pay no per minute charges. When you leave your office, the calls switch back the Sprint cell phone network. Sprint Airave costs $49.99 for the box and $15 per month per user for unlimited calling. Right now it's only available in Denver and Indianapolis with plans for more cities next year. Fyi - T-Mobile has a similar offering, dubbed T-Mobile HotSpot@Home


Airave


MORE:
Mobile Magazine:Samsung AIRAVE Extends Sprint Calling Range, Provides Free Calls

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