Tom Talks Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business thoughts and news

Skype for Business Pricing and Licensing

I’m neither a pricing or licencing expert, and licencing seems to be equal parts logic and black magic, but here is a brief explanation of my understanding of how Licencing woks for Skype for Business. All prices quoted are default list and likely to change a little depending on vertical/region/quantity/licencing model etc. Do not take these prices or definitions as correct, my understanding might not be perfect, offers do change sometimes change and your buy price will vary, always talk to Microsoft and your licencing partner.

Check out the official licencing guide here:

A Guide to Assessing Microsoft Lync Server Licensing

Lync 2013 Licensing Guide – Microsoft

Skype for Business Online licensing overview

Firstly you can run Skype for Business Server on-premise (or hosted by a partner) or Skype for Business Online (Multitenant on Office 365), or you could run hybrid where some users are hosted on server and some online.

Server Licencing:

  • First you have to license each Front End Server for SfB, Each Standard Edition or Enterprise Edition Front End is the same price, Other SfB Server roles do not incur a SfB Server Licencing
  • You will also need to licence any/all windows servers used
  • Being virtual or physical does not affect licencing

User Licencing:

User Licencing comes in two models, the traditional Client Access Licencing Model and the new Office 366 subscription model

User/Device – CAL Model:

  • Standard CAL: Standard CALs are basic client access license which enable users or devices to connect Skype for Business Server and provides basic features such as IM/Presence, peer-to-peer VOIP and HD Video, and skype connectivity.
  • Enterprise CAL: Enterprise CALs provide additional features to Standard CALs and Standard CALs are prerequisite for Enterprise CALs. It provides scheduled and impromptu meetings with audio and video calling, desktop and application sharing, and dial-in conferencing on mobile phones, tablets, PC and Mac.
  • Plus CAL: Plus CALs are additional CALs and required only for Enterprise Voice features, and Standard CALs are prerequisite for Plus CALs. It enables PSTN in/out, emergency calling, and other enterprise-grade phone features.

It’s very likely if you have an enterprise agreement that you buy an all up Enterprise CAL Suite which covers multiple products, including Skype for Business Standard and Enterprise CAL. The Plus CAL is still required on top of an Enterprise CAL Suite.

On top of server and user CALs you can pay software assurance, which gives you the rights to keep using the latest versions as they become available. This is likely to be somewhere between 20% and 30%. SA also unlocks various other benefits, such as support time.

Client Software Licencing:

The SfB client also needs to be licenced. It’s included in Office Pro Plus, and there is a free basic client which has 90% of the same functionality.

Office 365 Subscription Model – User Subscription Licenses (USLs):

These licences give you the right to run on Skype for Business Online, i.e. Microsoft run the full service for you, but they can also be counted as user licencing against Skype for Business Server, though you still have to pay the associated on-premise server licencing costs.

There are many models and variants, all listed out here: Skype for Business Online licensing overview, but essentially the enterprise plans break down to:

E1 – Includes basic Skype for Business Online features, but not Office or the client (though the free basic client can be used). Skype for Business Online PSTN Conferencing and PSTN Calling are add on licences

E3 – Includes Skype for Business Online features. Equivalent to a Standard and Ent CAL. Skype for Business Online PSTN Conferencing and PSTN Calling are add on licences. Includes Office Pro Plus, so full SfB client.


Cloud PBX – An Add on to E1 or E3 that gives you the ability for Skype for Business to be your phone, requires on prem carrier or Microsoft carrier services (PSTN Calling)

PSTN Calling – Microsoft acting as your carrier

PSTN Conferencing – Microsoft provided PSTN Conferencing for Skype for Business Online

E5 – includes various features, including Skype for Business Cloud PBX and PSTN Conferencing. PSTN Calling/carrier services are still additional

About the author

Tom Arbuthnot

Tom Arbuthnot is Principal Solutions Architect at Unified Communications specialist Modality Systems. He is a Microsoft Certified Master and MVP, blogger, has a regular podcast with UCToday at and is a regular speaker at events including Microsoft TechEd and Ignite. He co-runs The Microsoft UC User Group London.


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  • Thank you for this information,

    You have most likely answered the question but how do you actually apply the license to skype for business(S4B)?

    Do you install it to S4B control panel?

  • Hi Tom,

    you said, you just enable user in SfB Control Panel. That’s right, but how then I have to apply the CAL license? Is it needed when Enabling is just enough? How will Microsoft know if some user in on-premise model has no license?

    Thank you

  • Hi Tom,

    One of my friends using Skype free account last years ago. Now, he subscribe Microsoft office licensing and having SFB build in as licensed. Now, he wants to know once he log in last free account, it’s licensed or still free account ? And how can he check if his account use as licensed one. Looking forward your reply.

    Thanks and Regards,

    • “free” Skype for Business consumer and “Skype for business” are completely separate. He will only be able to sign into Skype for Business if he has a licence.

      hope that helps


  • Hi Tom,

    Thanks for useful information, I am dealing with a on premises S4B deployment and need little bit of your help to arrive on a right licensing need. If a customer want to use S4B with Enterprise Voice capability for 100 users does he/she needs to buy 100 Plus CAL and 100 Standard CAL. Is this right understanding.

Tom Talks Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business thoughts and news