Big news, Microsoft Teams Operator Connect is rolling out globally in Public Preview. Public preview allows customers to test features and provide feedback. Features may not be complete, may undergo changes, and are not supported in Office 365 Government Cloud.
Operator Connect is a new option for providing Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) connectivity with Teams Phone System. It joins Microsoft first-party Calling plans and Direct Routing. This will not replace Direct Routing, the ability to connect your own or a providers SBC to your tenant directly, as that is still a scenario some will want to have, for example, if they have their own SBC and want to interconnect with a PBX. However, this is likely to be the default route to get PSTN carrier numbers unless you have some special SBC requirements.
Operator Connect vs Direct Routing
Operator connect allows you to consume user phone numbers (and as the service develops numbers for Cloud Call Queue and Auto Attendant, so-called “voice apps” and PSTN Conferencing) directly from third-party PSTN Carriers/Operators. You can request a relationship with the operator directly from the Teams Admin Center, which will also allow you to see and assign numbers provided to you by the carrier.
Operators will also have a parallel experience for you to sign up and for payment, the idea is that this will be an online portal in most cases. This means you can buy and assign numbers completely online and do all your day to day admin directly in the Teams Admin Center. The billing and commercial agreement is between you and the operator.
There is no technical configuration to do, as long as users are in Teams Only mode and have a Teams Phone System licence, they can be assigned an Operator Connect number. There is no technical setup, SBC setup or anything equipment required, as Operator Connect carriers are already directly peered with Microsoft. This makes it much simpler to engage with carriers and order/assign numbers.
If you have Direct Routing with one of these providers, you can move your numbers into the Operator Connect Model. You can also port Microsoft Calling Plan numbers or numbers from other operators to Operators in Operator Connect if you require.
I do know that this is working in Public Preview with the carriers listed. The 11 live operators in preview and the number of regions they support are:
- BT – 16 regions – Offer Details
- NTT – – 25 regions – Offer Details
- PureIP – 41 regions – Offer Details
- Telnor – 4 regions – Offer Details
- Nuwave – 15 regions – Offer Details
- Intrado – 12 regions – Offer Details
- Telekom Deutschland – Germany only – Offer Details
- Tata – 27 regions – Offer Details
- OBS – 26 regions – Offer Details
- Verizon – USA only – Offer Details
- Rogers for Business – Just Canada – Offer Details
There are many more carriers queuing up to get on the program and the existing carriers may extend their regions covered over time.
On the Teams Admin Center you can filter operators by the region you want numbers for (and later type of number):
Once you have chosen your carrier, you can click the “offer details” which is an external link to their website with details of their service. If you want to move forward you can click the operator in TAC, complete some details on what you require and agree that Microsoft can share details with the operator. From there the operator will get in touch.
Once you are signed up with the operator, either via their online portal or other means, the operator will provision you numbers (via direct API access) which will then be available for you to assign to your users. Call Detail Records appear in the Teams Admin Center (not call costs). The duration of the call is provided by the operator. Later it is expected that more performance/quality information from the operators may be pushed into TAC for customers to view.
Operator Connect Dynamic and Static emergency calling and E-991
With Direct Routing, the PSTN Gateways is typically dedicated per customer tenant, therefore the customer can enable support for emergency calling at the trunk level, and can leverage one of the E-911 service providers.
For Operator Connect, the operator’s infrastructure is shared between multiple customers and emergency calling configuration is set by the operator.
Operator Connect trunks can be configured to support PIDF-LO for emergency calls. The customer will provide the static addresses of the phone numbers.
If dynamic 911 is configured on the customer’s tenant, the dynamic emergency locations defined in the tenant are sent in the SIP Messages to the operator, and if they support it they can use that to pass the call to the correct local PSAP.
You should speak to your chosen Operator Connect Provider regarding how they handle emergency calling and check it aligns with the rules and regulations in your geographies.
What does it take to for Operators to get onto the Operator Connect program?
Getting on the operator connect program requires some specific technical and contractual requirements. Specifically, on the technical side, it requires directly peering with Microsoft. Requirements include:
- Direct peering through Microsoft Azure Peering Services (MAPS) for Voice
- Ability to offer end-to-end QoS to customers
- SLA to customer
- Must be a regulated and/or licensed operator capable of providing phone numbers and PSTN services
- Must have two individuals pass the Practical Guidance Assessment for Voice
- Must have two individuals with Microsoft 365 Certified: Teams Administrator Associate
- Must be able to provide Tier 1 customer support
- Must meet the requirements related to interconnection, architecture, and integration
Microsoft and Operator Connect Operators also work directly together on any support issues.