For many people, the decision to drop their home phones in favor of a cellphone is an easy choice.
Actually, I wonder if today’s kids in their teens and 20s really give much thought to having a home phone. After all, most of them get a cellphone with their own number while they still live at home with their parents.
As they go to college and move out on their own, they just keep their cellphones.
I hate to admit it, but I went to college before cellphones and my dorm room had a phone on the wall.
But what about older people?
I’m talking about people in their 60s and older — like my parents.
My mom and dad still have the same home number that we got when we moved to Texas in 1980.
I’ve been testing a small box from Republic Wireless called the Extend Home Kit ($49.99) that connects your cell number to a home phone.
So, before we go any further, you need to be a Republic Wireless customer with a My Choice Plan to buy or use the Extend Home Kit.
My Choice Plans start at $15 per month or $150 per year. It will not work with any other cellphone carrier.
Before we get into the Extend Home Kit, let’s talk about Republic Wireless, which is an MVNO, which stands for mobile virtual network operator.
This means it is a company that buys service from a traditional carrier (in this case, T-Mobile and Sprint) and resells it to the public.
Republic’s phone service defaults to use Wi-Fi when it is available, so that the calls use the cheaper option of Wi-Fi calling. If Wi-Fi is not available, the phones use the cell network.
There are many MVNO options from companies like Consumer Cellular, Cricket, Visible, Mint, Google Fi, Boost Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile.
The Extend Home Kit is an interesting gadget.
It is a small black box with no buttons or switches at all.
You connect the Extend box to your home internet network with an Ethernet cable, which means it does need to be reasonably close to your broadband modem.
Then you connect the Extend to a traditional home phone. It can be any touchtone phone.
Since I don’t have a home phone, Republic Wireless sent along a Vtech cordless phone for my testing.
Once you get everything set up, you’ll need to log into your Republic Wireless account and add the Extend. You’ll find a series of letters and numbers on a sticker on the bottom of the Extend box that you’ll need to enter in to complete the setup.
The online setup took less than five minutes, but pay attention when you’re entering the number on the website. It is case-sensitive, and you have to enter it exactly as it is on the sticker. I got it right on the third try, which was totally my fault.
Part of the online setup is adding your street address for 911 calls.
Calling 911 from the Extend home phone will transmit that address to the 911 call center.
One note: This entire system is dependent on electricity. Unlike the old days when phones often worked when the power was out, this system uses your home internet connection, and the Extend box has a power cord. If the power is out, you can’t use the home phone, but your cellphone should still work.
Extending your cell
The Extend Home Kit lets you add a home phone that shares your cell number.
Once the Extend is set up, when someone calls your cell number, the call rings on your cell and on the home phone at the same time.
Whichever phone answers first gets the call.
This is especially helpful if you have a big house and don’t want to keep your cellphone in your pocket at all times.
It’s also handy if your cell is on a charger, so you don’t have to run to where the phone is to pick up a call.
Many modern wireless home phones come with two or three or four handsets, which means you can have them all over the house.
Once the setup is finished, the Extend Home box works independently of the cellphone.
All incoming and outgoing calls use your home internet connection.
The cellphone does not need to be in the house for the Extend to work — the cellphone doesn’t even need to be powered on.
This means you can have the cell in your pocket at the grocery store and someone at home can make calls on your cell number.
You can even use the home phone to call the associated cellphone and vice versa.
So if your phone’s battery is dead or you break it or lose it, you can still make calls, and people can still reach you.
Features and pricing
The phones connected to the Extend Home box will show caller ID, can do call waiting, three-way calling and access the cellphone’s voicemail system. All the My Choice Plans include unlimited calling to the U.S. and Canada. Since the calls use your home’s network, calls do not count against your cellphone plan’s included data.
Because all the calls go through Republic Wireless’ system, you’ll also get to take advantage of its spam filtering, so you’ll get fewer annoying junk calls.
The pricing for the Extend Home Kit could not be simpler.
You buy the box for $49, and that’s it.
There is no monthly fee or subscription.
As long as you keep your Republic Wireless cellphone account active, you can use the Extend Home Kit.
I’m not the target customer for this one, but my parents would be perfect candidates.
They each have cellphones, but they still have a home phone.
My house is not big enough to need phones all over the place.
But if you still yearn for a cordless phone or you have a really nice cordless phone system in your house you’d like to keep but you want to drop your landline, the Extend Home Kit is perfect for you.
I saw an online review from one mom who mentioned being able to run to the store and leave her pre-teens at home. The kids were not old enough yet to have their own cellphones, but with the Extend Home Kit, they can use the home phone to reach her when she’s away.
The fact that you have to be a Republic Wireless customer might limit the market for this, but if the Extend Home Kit sounds good to you, it might be worth switching your phone service.
Pros: Inexpensive, great solution for using a home phone while dropping that landline.
Cons: Tied to one cellphone company only.
Bottom line: Quick, easy and cheap way to use your cordless phones with your cell minutes.
(Article written by Jim Rossman)