By David J. Rosenthal
Microsoft has been in the voice communication business for many years now. Since its acquisition of Skype in 2011, the company has steadily upgraded its voice capabilities for both enterprises and SMBs.
Specifically to meet the specialized needs and budgets of SMBs, they released Microsoft 365 Business Voice in April of 2020, a complete cloud-based solution that integrates with Microsoft Teams.
New Year, New SKU
Microsoft is simplifying telephony capabilities for Teams starting now. Previously, it sold subscriptions under three plans:
Teams Calling Essentials for Enterprises (phone system and calling plan), Business Voice with or without Calling Plan (phone system, audio conferencing), and an optional calling plan for SMBs.
Starting now those three options are consolidated into one SKU: Teams Phone with Calling Plan, which includes a phone system and a calling plan. Additionally, Teams Phone and a Microsoft Calling Plan can now be purchased separately for users that would prefer a la carte licensing options.
Simplified Pricing and Management with Richer Features
This move will be of particular benefit to SMBs and streamline the addition of enterprise-grade telephony features into their operations with minimal changes or disruptions — while reducing costs.
Teams Phone with Calling Plan is an all-in-one communication app that includes:
Users can make calls from anywhere, on any device (e.g. desktops, laptops, smartphones, desk phones, meeting rooms) — and because the phone system and calling plan are integrated, purchasing licenses, migrating over, and using the service is completely frictionless. Plus, the app can be managed in the same admin console as all other Microsoft 365 and Office 365 services.
It’s all built on Microsoft’s secure and powerful cloud platform, so Teams Phone with Calling Plan is as reliable as it is rich with the modern features necessary for digitally-connected workforces:
- Auto attendant
- Call queue (greetings, music, overflow agents)
- Digital reception desk
- Call reports via Teams Analytics
- Emergency service dialing
- Consultative transfer
- Group calling (simultaneous ring)
- Call forwarding
- Extension dialing
- Voicemail transcription
Call quality is delivered at crystal-clear fidelity and Microsoft’s advanced AI ensures accurate transcription. Because it’s built into Teams, Teams Phone with Calling Plan is available in all the languages supported by Teams, which currently stands at 19, and on all the platforms that Teams does (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and the web),
Microsoft has further voice options on their release calendar as well. Starting on March 1, 2022, Audio Conferencing will be available for all Teams-inclusive Microsoft 365 and Office 365 subscriptions.
January 1, 2022
- Teams Phone with Calling Plan SKU becomes available in 33 markets, including the U.S. and Canada.
- There is a free 30-day trial of Teams Phone with Calling with access to the complete feature-set.
- Teams Phone with Calling Plan SKU becomes available in the rest of Microsoft’s markets.
March 1, 2022
- Business Voice licenses will no longer be available for purchase. Existing customers will continue to have access until their active license expires (with one more opportunity to renew).
- Audio Conferencing will be incorporated into all Teams-inclusive SKUs.
May 31, 2022
- Last day to add Audio Conferencing to a Microsoft 365 or Office 365 subscription for free for up to 12 months.
June 30, 2022
- Last day for existing Business Voice customers to renew their license.
What’s Included, What Can Be Added, and What’s Not Available Yet?
This new SKU is a comprehensive voice package available to eligible Microsoft 365 or Office 365 license holders (Microsoft 365 Business Basic, Business Standard, Business Premium, F1, F3, E3, A3 and Office 365 F1, F3, E1, E3, A1, A3). Alternatively, customers can select a Teams Phone stand-alone SKU which allows them to purchase dial tone from a third-party provider.
Teams Phone with Calling Plan subscribers get a phone system and a calling plan with 3,000 minutes for the U.S. and Canada (1,200 minutes in other available markets). And, as previously mentioned, audio conferencing will be added to all Teams-inclusive Microsoft 365 and Office 365 SKUs starting on March 1, 2022.
Toll-free numbers and additional minutes can be purchased with Communications Credits (a prepaid wallet). An international calling plan with 600 minutes per user per month is also available as an add-on.
Two features that cannot be currently added (but which Microsoft is investigating) are faxing and SMS messaging. There are, however, a number of cloud-native fax service providers that connect to Microsoft 365, and the Teams App store has many options for messaging integration (but they cannot currently use phone numbers assigned to Teams Phone users for SMS texting).
Taxes and Fees
Service components of the Domestic Calling Plan of Teams Phone with Calling Plan include all required taxes and fees in the U.S., including 911 fees and other transactional taxes that typically apply to communications services. The Phone System component, however, is sold tax exclusive; any applicable sales tax will appear as a separate charge.
Outside of the U.S., all taxes and fees are not included in the subscription price.
How Will Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN) Be Affected?
In short, very little. Though Teams Phone with Calling is cloud-based and enables making, receiving, and transferring calls entirely over the internet, it is completely and seamlessly interoperable with PSTNs. Users can retain their existing phone numbers and transfer them over from an existing service provider to Teams Phone, after which Microsoft will become the service provider.
Or, they can opt to keep their current service provider by using Operator Connect and Direct Routing. Direct Routing enables customers to use their own PSTN operator by linking their Session Border Controller(s) (SBC) to Phone System with Operator Connect. If their existing operator is a participant in the Microsoft Operator Connect program, they can manage PSTN calling and SBCs.
Razor Technology Is Here to Assist Your Migration to Microsoft’s Latest Upgrades
Navigating the often complex licensing and feature options of Microsoft’s industry-leading technologies can be daunting. Connect with Razor to stay ahead of the changes.
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Razor Technology has been recognized as one of Top 10 Top Managed Service Providers by DesignRush” .