Update 12th December 2021: Bring your own operator for PSTN audio conferencing in Microsoft Teams with Operator Connect Conferencing is now available
Update 27th September 2021: Operator connect has moved from preview to generally available and Metaswitch has launched a managed SBC for Operator Connect service.
Operator Connect is another option, alongside Calling plans and Direct routing, for Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) connectivity with Teams Phone System. This will not replace Direct Routing, however, this is likely to be the default route to get PSTN carrier numbers unless you have some special SBC requirements.
It also provides an option to bring third-party operators for audio conferencing in Teams.
The Operator Connect program has 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.
Operator Connect Calling for Teams Phone
Microsoft announced 9 operators as launch partners and more are being added all the time. You can see the full list at the Operator Connect Operator Directory
Operator Connect Conferencing
Operator Connect Conferencing is an operator-managed service that provides the following :
- Maintain your preferred conferencing operator (if they are on the program) as you migrate your meeting service to Microsoft Teams
- Expanded geographic dial-in coverage beyond what Microsoft offers: Additional dial-in locations are available to support your multi-national needs.
- Leverage specific commercial deals from the operators
- Operators can provide enhanced technical support and service level agreements to address reliability
- Inbound and outbound PSTN calling
Operator Connect Conferencing is generally available with the initial wave of qualified operators, which includes BT, Deutsche Telekom, Intrado, NTT, Orange Business Services, and Telenor.
Interestingly, even though you are connecting to a third-party service, you still need a user license, either Microsoft (PSTN) Audio Conferencing Standard subscription or Operator Connect Conferencing license. With PSTN conferencing being included in most Microsoft 365 SKUs moving forward this may be a moot point, but I am asking Microsoft for the details and will update this post when I have more. Be sure to subscribe for all the updates.
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 are 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 license, 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.
(Microsoft) Metaswitch Managed SBC for Operator Connect
Microsoft acquired Metaswitch back in May 2020, now we see Metaswitch announcing Managed SBC for Operator Connect,
- built on the Microsoft-certified Perimeta SBC
- Hosted in an Operator’s Azure cloud tenant
- Managed entirely from a central Metaswitch vNOC
This is interesting, as it provides operators a fast SaaS route to Operator Connect.
Microsoft announcement blog: Operator Connect general availability and new Microsoft Teams Phone features to modernize calling