The PhoneBoy Blog

Simplifying Telecom, Mobile Phones, Gadgets, and More!

Verizon Wireless Home Phone Connect–Can It Replace A Landline?

Home Phone Connect KioskI was in Fry’s at the end of last week and happened to run across this display in the mobile phone section of their store. While I’m well aware of the surveys that show people are cutting the cord, there is something about having a phone at home that many people can use.

The Verizon Wireless Home Phone Connect appears to give you the best of both worlds: the ability to use regular telephone handsets, where for example, you can easily have multiple handsets with one base unit,  but use the mobile phone network to provide the voice service.

Certainly, the price is right. On paper, it sounds much better than the nearly $63 I’ve been paying CenturyLink. But is it really a good deal? And can it really replace a landline phone?

Let’s discuss other alternatives, starting with Comcast. I use their Internet at home along with Limited Basic cable. While I could bundle and save, of course, I wouldn’t really save anything since the bundles all assume you have something other than Limited Basic cable, thus my total spend would go up, not down. The pricing on their phone service unbundled, which has a “low introductory offer” isn’t a substantial savings in the long run, especially when the promotions expire.

I am well, well aware of the bajillions of VoIP alternatives out there. Believe me, I’ve tried a lot of them over the years, and while I know I can save a ton of money, I prefer to have my voice communication go over a different channel–especially if the Internet is having problems, which can and does happen.

Now, to the Verizon Wireless Home Phone Connect service, which consists of a $19.99 voice plan (unlimited calling in the US) and a Huawei F256 free on a 2 year contract. You can either add it to an existing account or open a new account. I chose the latter since my one Verizon phone is corporate-paid.

While I was surprised to find out about this offering, it’s not actually new. It’s been around at least a year, both according to Google searches and the sales rep I talked to at Diamond Wireless, the local “Verizon Wireless” store in Gig Harbor. The rep said the device is seeing increased interest as one friend tells another about it. While there wasn’t a display for it in their store, there was an empty box for the device was sitting on the sales counter.

As a rule, I don’t purchase wireless equipment or sign up for service through indirect retailers. After I had gotten home with the device and read my paperwork more closely, I remembered why. Diamond Wireless charges $400 if you terminate between days 15 and 185 of your 2 year agreement, which is above and beyond what Verizon Wireless themselves charge. While the nice sales rep explained what my bill would look like, the Verizon ETF, and so on, she did fail to explain the Diamond Wireless ETF to me. Caveat emptor!

The service really isn’t $19.99 a month like it says, since there are taxes and fees–when did the USF become 17.4%???. For me, in my area, it works out to roughly $25 a month. This is still significantly cheaper than the nearly $63 CenturyLink is charging me for the same kind of service over twisted pair.

The Huawei F256 is very much like a VoIP ATA: it has a couple of analog phone jacks on it and a network connection. In this case, the network connection is a CDMA cellular radio that connects to the Verizon Wireless network. You plug your analog phones into the F256, which you can move to a place where Verizon Wireless reception is most optimal.
Your analog phone is now, for all intents and purposes, a voice-cable mobile phone on the Verizon Wireless network. You can’t text or use data on this line–those services are blocked–but it does have typical voice features like Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, 3-way Calling, CallerID, and Voicemail. It also supports Message Waiting Indicator so you get an indication of new voicemail on the landline handset.

The real test: how does it sound? Obviously your results will vary depending on how good your Verizon Wireless coverage is. Mine is pretty good. I put the device in service for a few days and it passed the wife test with flying colors.

I issued a request to port my landline number to Verizon. Even though they told me it could take 2-10 business days for the port to complete, they also said it frequently happens much sooner. Well see. Meanwhile, I’m forwarding my landline to my new Verizon Wireless Home Phone Connect so I don’t miss any calls.

Of course, this device (and service) comes with caveats, which I will highlight below:

  • Faxing is not supported, but there are a number of cost-effective alternatives for that, including OneSuite’s Internet Fax service, which I haven’t used in a while.
  • Home Security Systems or other types of callout systems may not work. Compatibility varies.
  • Caller ID with Name (normally not provided on mobile phones) is an extra $2/mo.
  • E911 is available as the device has a built-in GPS. However, it is ultimately a mobile phone. That said, I have heard plenty of horror stories with landlines, 911, and location.
  • The device has a battery, so it will operate in a power outage. However, the battery will only operate for a few hours of talk time and will last a day and a half in standby mode.  This is clearly not going to work for an extended power outage.

All in all, if you have decent Verizon Wireless service at your house and you’re looking for a cheaper, non-VoIP alternative to a landline, then this is definitely worth considering.

Of course, if you want something even cheaper, you can get Straight Talk Wireless Home Phone, which is essentially the same service with a lower per-month price ($15/mo), but you have to buy the hardware device upfront for $99.99. I chose the Verizon version because I prefer to deal with the underlying service provider directly in most cases.

Update: Read my postscript to this article here.

To leave a comment on this post, you need a free account or a Facebook account.

Parent, Writer, Podcaster, Coffee Achiever, VoIP/Telco Curious, C-List Information Security Celebrity, and Mobile Phone Connoisseur residing in Gig Harbor WA US. Sometimes NSFW, always a 49ers fan.