Verizon Wireless dialing up home phone service

Ready to hang up on your land-line bills, but not quite ready to ditch your home phone? Turns out Verizon Wireless is quietly testing a new service, starting at $10 a month for current Verizon mobile subscribers, that lets you make calls with a standard telephone over the carrier’s network.

We’re only talking a limited trial for now: NetworkWorld reports that Verizon is kicking the tires on its Home Phone Connect service in select areas of New York and Connecticut.

Here’s how the service works: Just plug your old home phone — yep, the one in the bedroom or hanging from the kitchen wall — into a wireless, AC-powered base station supplied by the carrier, which in turn connects to Verizon’s cellular voice network.

After that, well … you start making and receiving calls, just as you would over a land line (and yes, you can port over your old land-line number if you wish).

Verizon’s Home Phone Connect service will offer most of the same features you’d expect from a land line, according to NetworkWorld, including 911, 411 and 611 calls, with Verizon’s customer support page ticking off such familiar cell-phone features as call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID, three-way calling, voice mail, last-number callback, and codes for getting your account balance and automated payment menus.

Of course, one of the key features of a land line is that it typically will keep working even during a power outage. Not to worry: The Verizon base station comes with a battery pack in case the lights go out.

How much does it all cost? Well, you must be a Verizon Wireless customer to sign up for the service at all, NetworkWorld says. You then pay $10 a month to share voice minutes between your cell phone and your Home Phone Connect phone, or you can get unlimited domestic minutes for your new, virtual land line for an extra $20 a month.

If all this sounds familiar, maybe you’re thinking of T-Mobile’s now-defunct @Home service, which let you make calls through T-Mobile’s cellular network using your home phone and a Wi-Fi-enabled base station with a SIM card inside. It was a nifty service (I got to test the original @Home units back in 2008, and had a positive experience overall) that never got off the ground, and T-Mobile killed it off early this year.

You may also remember the Verizon Hub, the snazzy-looking but pricey ($200) home phone with a 7-inch touchscreen that connected to the Verizon Wireless network. Again, though, the “land-line slayer” failed to catch on. Verizon hung up on the Hub less than a year after its January 2009 launch.

Verizon Wireless’ Home Phone Connect test comes as more and more Americans are tossing their land lines. A recent survey found that 1 U.S. household in 4 has gone wireless-only. I happen to live in one of those no-land-line households, and personally, I don’t miss having a home phone. My mobile has effectively become my home phone.

But for those who want the security of an actual land line but have grown tired of paying the bills (which aren’t all that cheap, especially if you appreciate such basic niceties as voice mail and call waiting), a service like Home Phone Connect could make for a clever compromise.

So, anyone out there interested in a such a virtual “home phone” system like Verizon’s? Would you rather stick with a real land line? Or have you gone ahead and gone all-wireless, all the time?

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