Home Phone Service: Is VoIP right for you?

Home Phone Service – magicJack??

The Wall Street Journal checked into magicJack, and found that:

  • – it was cheap
  • – it was “Way Overhyped”
  • – and that it really worked!

Are you considering using an Internet based phone company such as magicJack for your home phone service? You should first ask whether your internet connection is good enough for phone calls. Using the Internet for phone calls is referred to as Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

Conventional providers of home phone service offer peace of mind – many consumers grew up with Ma Bell, and others rely heavily on the companies for  their mobile phones. If your Internet connection is fast enough to support VoIP home phone service, you can enjoy  new features and save hundreds of dollars each year. Before you port your phone number to magicJack, consider keeping your existing home phone  while ironing out any wrinkles with your new magicJack.

VoIP – Good for Home Phone Service?

VoIP is not for anyone who has dial up service or who is using a satellite dish for an internet connection. Dial up service isn’t fast enough to carry ‘real time’ audio, and there’s nothing quite so disheartening as trying to call home – only to hear static.

Satellite internet services are not good candidates for VoIP either. The signal has to travel to a satellite which is 22,000 miles above the earth – then bounce back to your dish. The signal travels fast, but the distance is so great there are significant lags in the conversation. If that wasn’t bad enough, satellite services are only speedy in one direction – from the provider’s dish to yours. Any signal sent back to the provider is much slower, and your conversation would end in static, just as if you had dial up service.

Cable or DSL Should Be OK

If you have DSL or cable internet service, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to use a VoIP as a much less expensive home phone service. You should do a little more checking before dropping your check in the mail, though.

I first bought a magicJack in 2005 and wondered if I'd lost my mind. What was I thinking – how could I possibly make phone calls over the Internet using a small plastic dongle? I managed to sort it out though, and I've made thousands of VoIP calls since, saving a fair bit of money each month.

Woman tangled in phone systemBefore you take the leap though, I'd like to introduce you to the first hurdle you need to clear to use magicJack – your Internet connection. Dial up service won't do, and neither will satellite service. In fact, a lot of “high speed” connections aren't up to it. Here's how you can tell if your connection might cause problems.

First, zip off to http://speedtest.net and click on the “Go” button in the middle of the page. Give it a few minutes, then take a look below to see how well your connection is for VoIP.

  • Ping – The time it takes your signal to get to the test service server is called latency, and is the downfall of any satellite connection. If your ping has to go to a satellite and be bounced back to earth to be heard, your conversation would be full of long pauses while the signal went tens of thousands of miles up and back – not a good experience. Even land based high speed Internet service has latency though, so the smaller the number you see here, the better. Keep in mind that 20ms is 1/50 of a second, which is perfectly acceptable. You have to be the judge here – how much delay can you live with?
  • Download – Generally this is the speed you were sold when you bought the plan. Typically, any high speed service is more than adequate to provide the meager 128Kb per second download speed required to have a magicJack conversation. Any dial up service will fail this test though!
  • Upload – Here's where some services lose their mojo, as upload speed is almost universally slower than download speed. It's not uncommon to have download speeds that are 5 to 10 times faster then the same service's upload speed. What does magicJack need for a good conversation? 128Kb per second – but keep in mind that this is on top of any other uploads you have going on at the same time.

So exactly what is 1kb per second? If you receive 1kb of data per second, you're receiving 1,000 bits per second. To carry voices clearly, magicJack needs to have a stream of 128kb per second. Many high speed Internet connections have speeds that are measured in Mb per second, or 1,000,000 bits per second, so there shouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world… take just a moment to test yours!

Do you have a question or comment about using magicJack as your home phone service? Drop a note in the comment box below and put it out there for all to see! You may find the answer you're looking for – or perhaps you'll hear from another sympathetic user.

18 thoughts on “Home Phone Service: Is VoIP right for you?”

    1. Hi Coldbeer –
      I’m not with magicJack, I’m just a user helping other users – so I can’t really do you much good. The magicJack FAQ page indicates there is a $10 charge. You can go to the techchat page at http://www.magicjack.com/techchat, type “change phone number” in the search field, and read a bit about it. There is a file for download there to help with the change.

      Good luck!

    2. I would yo tranfer my# to my cell phone and when i registered they gave a free usa # and i fo have an acount

  1. I have had Magic Jack for a couple of years
    Love it
    My magic jack is not through my computer directly but plugged into a wall unit and router.

    I would like to be able to block a few calls (numbers)

    How can I do this

    1. MagicFeatures has been great for me – blocking calls, letting me turn Call Waiting on and off, and so on – but it does require that your magicJack be plugged into a computer to work its magic. I’ve used a net book in the past, but now I use a thinclient. They’re both low power options, and give me all the benefits of MagicFeatures.


  2. Just curious – what to you mean about “Thinclient”
    I am a new MJ owner…
    I was considering connecting MJ to my 2008r2 server that I can remote to – is this what you meant or do you have a windows PC that runs Thinclient that your MJ is plugged into?
    Right now still getting my bearings so leaving MJ plugged in to power only – no PC yet.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Andy –
      The magicJack has to be plugged into a computer to get MagicFeatures’ call blocking, speed dialing, 7 digit local calling, (and other features) to work. You should be able to use it with your server – I’d certainly give it a try before going out and getting a thinclient or netbook. Just be aware that if you’re having magicJack problems, some of the possible solutions involve physically unplugging and re-installing the dongle (need to be at the server) or may necessitate rebooting (downtime for the server).

      We use a small thinclient for that reason. It consumes about 20 watts, typically on eBay for $40 – $60 (just a random listing from an eBay search). It doesn’t have its own monitor, keyboard, or mouse; we just use Windows Remote Access if we need to access magicJack on the thinclient. If you don’t want to get into remote access, you can also run magicJack on a netbook (a small laptop), and leave that running all the time.

      We like all the features of MagicFeatures, so we keep our magicJack Plus plugged into the USB port all the time.

      Let me know if you have other questions –


  3. we want to tranfers my old nonbers from cable visión these account is on my name Jorge abreu  y the old nonbers is on my mother name with cable visión at the same addre

    1. Hi Jorge –

      Don’t port your number to magicJack just yet! It’s no fun to port your old number into magicJack, only to turn around and decide you want to port it back out again. Since you get a free number when you purchase your magicJack, see how well it works for you. If all is well, go ahead and port your number to magicJack. That’s how I went at it nearly 6 years ago, and I still advise doing so today.

      Best of luck with it!


  4. Is there a monthly fee to use magic jack? Or u just buy device plug it in and go no extra bills… I need it to make over seas calls!!!

    1. Hi Priscilla!

      The monthly fee to use magicJack varies by the plan you select, from $5 for a single month to $1.67 per month (5 year plan). It does cost extra for international calls though.

      If you make lots of overseas calls, consider Skype to Skype calls, or purchase and activate a second magicJack and send it overseas to your phone buddy. You’ll need to pay the monthly fees for both, but the international calls have no additional charge!


  5. I have a problem with my magic jack 10dayes ago doesn’t work we renew it last year for 5years I check wireless it is ok I need my home phone work again please help.

  6. My home phone service says No Line. The internet is on so is Direct TV. I do not understand service just stopped with no dial tone. I tried to contact by phone no response. My activation code is xxxxx. MY MJ number is xxx xxx-xxxx. My expiration date is the month of September when I will renew.It has been great . I told so many friends and they have it ,too. Please Help,because as a senior I need my land line for emergency,also. Thanks
    I have a borrow number if you need to dial me directly.

    1. Hi Lillie-

      Good news and not so good news. MagicJack has been known to just stop working for no apparent reason (the not so good news), but there are several ways you can try to bring it back to life. Download a free report (at the bottom of the ebook list), and see if one of the solutions works for you.

      Best of luck!


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