While it may seem like cell phones have replaced traditional home phones, many people still use and/or rely on non-cellular home phones. A variety of telecommunications companies offer home phone service, including traditional phone companies, Internet providers and a few other technology providers.
Understanding the differences between these offering requires customers to understand the differences in the technology that they use. Educating themselves about different companies and technologies will help consumers find the best plan for their need and budget.
Top 10 Best Rated Home Phone Service
Vonage provides VoIP home phone plans for a low monthly rate in addition to taxes and fees. The company offers regular discounts and introductory offers to new customers, and all plans include free extra features.
|Read 1984 Reviews|
RingCentral offers a free trial to give businesses a chance to try before they buy their next phone system. The service uses integrated communications via an app to bring mobile devices into the communications hub.
|Read 18 Reviews|
BasicTalk is a home phone service that uses the customer’s existing high-speed Internet connection to make unlimited calls to anywhere in the U.S. It is a subscription service for $9.99 per month (fees and taxes not included).
|Read Expert Review|
Ooma Telo is a home phone service designed to provide inexpensive long-distance and international communication using VoIP technology. It connects through the Internet and is available for business and residential use.
|Read 23 Reviews|
NuEra Telecom is headquartered in Miami, Fla. and was founded in 1997. They offer calling plans that use a toll-free access number. Rates vary by calling location. NuEra works to ensure individuals can make international calls.
|Read 55 Reviews|
Previously VarTec Solutions, Excel Communications offers voice and data services to residential and commercial customers. The company has local, long distance and international calling plans with a variety of features.
|Read 34 Reviews|
AT&T has provided communication services for over 140 years. Today, the company has television and Internet services as well as digital and traditional home phone service. Consumers can choose from a variety of plan options.
|Read 912 Reviews|
STi’s prepaid calling cards allow customers to make calls long distance calls from any landline. The company specializes in enabling consumers to make international calls. Its headquarters are in Annapolis, Md.
|Read 50 Reviews|
FairPoint Communications was founded in 1993 with headquarters in North Carolina. The company offers Internet, television and home phone service in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. It’s transitioning to fiber optic lines.
|Read 249 Reviews|
Blue Casa is a telephone service provider in Santa Barbara, Calif. They were established in 2003 and offer local, long distance and international plans for business and residential customers.
|Read 12 Reviews|
What features matter most?
Home phone service is a fairly standard service, with most companies offering similar features and plan choices. This similarity makes customer service an important factor in choosing between similar companies.
- Contact options: Look at the support section of the companies’ websites to see when and how you can get in touch with someone. Are representative available after business hours or on weekends? Can you live chat with someone so you don’t have to make a phone call—something that might be hard to do if you’re having problems with your phone line?
- Scheduling service calls: Consider asking about the process for scheduling a service call before you sign a contract. Ask about the window of time customers are given when a technician is scheduled to come out. Companies should be able to give you a small time frame so that you don’t need to miss work while waiting on a technician.
- Hold time: Call the customer service phone number and follow the prompts you would follow if you were an existing customer with a problem or question to see if you spend a great deal of time on hold waiting for a representative to be available. Call at the time of day you would likely call if you actually have a problem. This test call will show you how they treat their customers.
- Social media: Check the company’s social media pages to see if customers post complaints on those sites. If so, how does the company respond? If customer service representatives respond, you’ll know that the company is concerned about customer problems. If the pages are only used to advertise and/or sell services, they may be more concerned with getting customers than keeping them.
Most companies’ websites have clearly stated monthly fees for their phone service offerings. However, once you start to order or after you subscribe to a service, the company may add on a variety of extra fees. Read the fine print so that you know exactly what you’ll pay for installation and what your monthly fees will be.
- Installation: If a company has to come to your residence to connect your new service, they may charge an installation fee. This fee should be clearly stated before you commit to any plan.
- Equipment fee: If you need a special device to make your phone work with an Internet connection, the company may charge a monthly rental fee or you may have to buy their device outright. If you will be required to pay a rental fee, add that to the monthly price when comparing plans. If you must buy a device, see if the necessary equipment is available from a third-party seller at a lower price.
- Activation fee: An activation fee may be charged when the company can turn your service on remotely. This fee should be shown before you order a service.
- Taxes and fees: Some companies include taxes and fees when advertising their monthly price, but some companies do not. Make sure you understand exactly what the monthly fee includes when you’re comparing prices.
- Unlimited calling: Many companies offer unlimited calling plans but can still charge extra fees if you regularly use more minutes than they deem reasonable. If you plan to use the phone a lot—usually several thousand minutes of talk time per month—make sure to see if a company’s unlimited plan has terms and conditions.
Many companies offer some kind of discount to entice new customers to subscribe to their services. Make sure you compare similar services when looking at discounts.
- Bundling discounts: Companies that provide multiple telecommunications service usually offer discounts to customers who have more than one of their services, or bundles. If you’re already planning to get multiple services, using a single company may save you money. With a bundle, you will also have fewer monthly bills to remember.
- Introductory/promotional pricing: If you’re a new customer, companies often offer significant discounts for signing a service contract with them. Introductory offers usually expire after a certain period. If the introductory price ends before the contract, average the introductory and standard prices to determine if the initial savings make the plan cheaper overall than its competitors’ plans.
Some plans are available on a month-to-month basis while others require you to sign a contract. Each type of plan has its own benefits.
- No contract: Plans without contracts allow you to cancel if you realize you don’t need or want the service after only a few months, or even weeks. Price may change with little warning for customers without a contract.
- Price guarantee: Plans with a contract usually guarantee that your price will not increase during the duration of the contract. However, if you decide to cancel your service early, you will have to pay a penalty fee.
- Trial period: Some companies that require customers to sign a contract also offer a trial period during which consumers can cancel without any penalty. This option may not be advertised, so ask a customer service representative before you sign a contract.
The type of plan you choose will be determined by how you plan to use your phone. Realistically assess your needs before committing to a plan.
- Placing international calls: If you regularly place calls to individuals in foreign countries, select a company that offers a competitive international plan. An international plan may not include all countries, so ask exactly where you can call with a plan and which countries will incur an additional per-minute charge.
- Home business use: If you operate a small business out of your home, consider plans with call waiting so you don’t miss business calls. Also make sure to understand the reasonable limits company’s place on “unlimited” plans.
- Cell phone alternative: Home phones may be less expensive than a cell phone plan, so if you spend most of your time at home then a home phone may be smarter financially. If could also be a more convenient choice if you don’t have great cell reception at your home.
- Emergencies: If you only plan to use your home phone for emergencies, consider getting the least expensive plan. You will be able to dial 911 from any active landline, and you will be able to call long distance numbers if necessary, but you will be billed for these calls on a per-minute fee schedule.
- Alarm systems: Some home alarm systems use phone lines to send alerts to your security company. Some VoIP provides may or may not be compatible with your existing alarm. Check with the phone company and the security company about the requirements and capabilities before signing up for a new service or discounting your existing service.
Many individuals want a home phone so that 911 operators will automatically know their location when they make an emergency call. Technological advances now make it easy to make 911 calls and for dispatchers to find you without a landline.
- Registering devices: Some companies sell VoIP devices that connect to third-party Internet providers. Customers with these devices/services must register their address with that company. Only after registering will their information be sent directly to the 911 personnel.
- Fiber optic lines: Phones that connect to fiber optic lines, as opposed to traditional copper lines, will send location information to emergency personnel when a 911 call is placed. However, individuals with a fiber optic line must have a battery backup system to make calls during power outages.
- A note on wireless 911 calls: The development of Enhanced 911 (E911) makes it easier for 911 operators to locate people calling from a cell phone. E911 requires mobile phone providers to send information about the phone’s location to emergency services. Newer technology provides more precise location information.
What are different types of home phone infrastructures?
Traditionally, copper phone lines were used to send electrical pulses, which telephones created by converting sound to energy. Copper lines are expensive and cannot handle the amount of data demanded by internet users, so copper line are being replaced by newer technology, like fiber optics. Copper line can carry energy, meaning that phone connected to these older lines work even during prolonged power outages.
Fiber optic cables are made of glass and transmit data and sound using pulses of light. This technology creates faster speeds and more reliable connections. Fiber optic lines will replace all copper lines and combination copper/fiber lines in the coming years. Unlike copper, these lines cannot carry energy, so they must connect to a back-up power source to be used during power outages.
Mobile hotspots connect to a mobile carrier’s network to provide Internet access and phone home service. Consumers will need to purchase a compatible modem, usually from the service provider. These devices do not need to connect to any telecommunications lines, but they do need electricity.
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and uses an Internet connection to make calls. VoIP can use a variety of technologies to do this, including fiber optic lines and an LTE network. As copper lines are phased out, all telephone calls will use VoIP technology.
Who's it for?
Those with children living in their home may wish to have a home phone line for their children to use before they’re ready for their own cell phone. Having access to a home phone, with the 911 connection, may also make some parents and guardians feel more comfortable, especially if they have tweens and/or teens who are sometimes home alone.
Consumers who regularly call friends or family outside of the United State may find international home phone plans financially beneficial. Home phone plans might be less expensive than adding an international plan to their cell phone plan.
Small business owners
Anyone who operates a small business out of their home might benefit from having a dedicated line for customers to get in touch with them.
Seniors who are more familiar with home phones may want to keep one of these lines.
Individuals who live in areas that do not have good cell phone service should consider a home phone so that they have reliable access to a phone.
XFINITY from Comcast offers Internet, television, smart home and telephone services. Consumers can receive discounts by subscribing to more than one XFINITY service. The company’s home phone service is available in nearly 40 states and the District of Columbia.
- Best for XFINITY Voice is best for individuals who want the reliability of a home phone with some features available on mobile devices and who live in an XFINITY service area.
Verizon, a publically-traded company, was founded in 2000 when Bell Atlantic and GTE merged. The new company provided both local phone service and mobile phone service. Today, Verizon Residential offers home phone, Internet and television service. Customers can receive discounts when they bundle multiple services. Plans will vary depending on whether customers have Verizon’s FiOS or LTE services.
- Best for Verizon home phone service is best for residential customers and small business owners who want the option to bundle multiple services and/or are interested in fiber optic service.
Bell Canada is the largest communications company in Canada, offering mobile phone, television, Internet and home phone services. Customers receive discounts when they subscribe to more than once service. They have both traditional landlines and fiber optic lines. The company is publically traded on both the New York Stock Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange. The company was founded in 1880 and is headquartered in Montreal.
- Best for Bell Canada is good for residential customers and business owners who want the reliability of a landline and/or any customers who want to bundle multiple services.
AT&T is a publically traded company with headquarters in Dallas. The company has 140-year history in the communications industry. Today, it offers home phone, cellular, Internet and television services. Consumers who bundle two or more services receive discounts.
- Best for AT&T Home Phone is best for anyone who wants a traditional landline and is looking for a variety of additional features.
FairPoint Communications is a publically traded company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C. The company offers television, Internet and home phone service in 17 states, with the most saturated areas in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Consumers can receive discounts by subscribing to multiple services.
- Best for FairPoint’s home phone service is good for anyone who wants the reliability of a landline.
Founded in 2006 Windstream Telecommunications is a publically traded company with headquarters in Little Rock, Ark. They provide Internet, television and home phone services. Customers receive a discount when they bundle multiple services. Not all services are available in all areas. They currently have residential services in 18 states.
- Best for Windstream is best for anyone interested in VoIP calling and/or those interested in bundling multiple services.
Ooma Telo devices provide VoIP calling for free. Customers connect the Ooma device to their Internet line and to their preferred handset. The device sends voice calls over the Internet for free; for domestic calls, consumers only pay the applicable taxes and fees. Ooma devices are available online and at several major retailers.
- Best for Ooma is best for individuals who want a low monthly rate and have an existing Internet provider.
Launched in 2003, BasicTalk is a low-cost home phone service that allows unlimited talk for a flat-rate price. With no contracts or hidden fees, BasicTalk strives to deliver hassle-free service at a low cost to keep customer support simple, direct and efficient.
- Works with internet: BasicTalk uses the consumer’s high-speed internet connection. BasicTalk ships its BasicBox for free, and the user connects this box to their modem to activate service.
- Flat Rate: BasicTalk service costs a flat rate $9.99 per month, plus taxes and government fees. BasicTalk offers an online calculator that uses consumers’ zip code to tell them how much they will be paying after tax and government fees. There are no contracts or other hidden fees.
- Unlimited calling: BasicTalk’s service is for unlimited calling. Local and long-distance nationwide phone calls all fall under the same basic service.
- Keep your number: Most numbers can be transferred easily to BasicTalk’s service. Consumers who want to keep their current phone numbers can check online to see if theirs will be available on BasicTalk.
- Voicemail: BasicTalk also includes voicemail. This service is turned on as soon as BasicTalk is activated, and users can change its settings from their online account.
- Best for Consumers who want simple, no-frills phone service for a flat fee.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.
11 – 21 Best Rated Home Phone Service
Bell Canada was established in 1880 and is Canada’s largest communications company, providing cellular, home phone, television and Internet services. It’s a publically traded company with headquarters in Montreal.
|Read 356 Reviews|
XFINITY is a trademark of Comcast that markets the telecommunications company’s cable, Internet and home phone service. Their phone services are only available in select markets. Consumers receive a discount for bundling service.
|Read 245 Reviews|
MCI, formerly MCI/WorldCom and WorldCom, became a part of Verizon in 2003. Customers can still sign up for service with MCI, which offers local, long distance and international plans as well as prepaid services.
|Read 143 Reviews|
Verizon Communications was established in 2000 and is headquartered in New York. The company offers home phone service using fiber optic or LTE technology and offers discounts to customers who bundle multiple residential services.
|Read 747 Reviews|
CenturyLink was established in the late 1960s and is headquartered in Louisiana. It offers a variety of telecommunication services, including home phone service. CenturyLink services are available in over 40 states.
|Read 3250 Reviews|
Windstream offers Internet, television and home phone service to residential customers in 18 states. The phone service uses VoIP technology. The company’s headquarters are in Arkansas, and it was founded in 2006.
|Read 357 Reviews|
EarthLink High Speed internet brings clients DSL, cable and satellite internet access. The company offers speeds up to 20 Mbps, protection from viruses and allows several devices to share one internet connection.
|Read 386 Reviews|
This company is a part of Cavalier Telephone, which is owned by Windstream. Customers access online services related to their account through Windstream’s website.
|Read 22 Reviews|
Union Telecom offers home and cell phone services to customers in the United States and caters to Spanish speakers. Consumers can add international calling plans and can even send balances to prepaid cell phone in other countries.
|Read 23 Reviews|
Convergia was established in 1998 and is based in Montreal. It currently offers local, long distance and international services in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay and Spain.
|Read 9 Reviews|
Telstra Australia was established as an Australian telegraph company in 1854 and now serves 22 countries, primarily in the Asia-Pacific region. It provides home phone, Internet, wireless phone and television services.
|Read 8 Reviews|