Verizon Wireless Home Phone Connect–Can It Replace A Landline?
I 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/month 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.
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 $29 a month in 2016 (note this includes the $2/mo charge for Caller ID Name--see below). This is still significantly cheaper than the nearly $63/mo 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. The device has been our home phone service ever since.
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. Why a regular mobile phone can be done in 15 minutes but it takes a landline at least two days, I'm not sure.
The level of notification about the process was not optimal, at least back in October 2012. Maybe they fixed it since then. Hopefully newer devices don't manually require you to reprogram your phone by dialing *228 after the port is finished, either.
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. There are some minor differences between the database used by Verizon versus CenturyLink but it generally seems to work ok.
- E911 is available as the device has a built-in GPS and you configure your street address on the Verizon Wireless portal. While I have heard plenty of horror stories with both landlines and mobile phones with regards to 911 and location, I can safely say, at least in my area, it works. There were a couple of instances where we've had to call 911 since this device was installed and people showed up to the right location.
- The device has a battery, so it will operate in a power outage. However, the battery will only operate for a few houra. According to the specs, the battery will last for a few hours of talk time and will last a day and a half in standby mode. The most I've had it last is about four hours total.
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. It's worked reasonably well for my family over the last few years.
A cheaper version of the same thing is the offering from Straight Talk Wireless Home Phone, which is essentially the same service with a lower per-month price ($15/mo). You do have to buy the hardware device upfront (In 2016, at my location, this is $50). I chose the Verizon version because I prefer to deal with the underlying service provider directly in most cases.
Updated with additional observations 15 July 2016