Microsoft Readies PBX Phone Option for Teams as COVID-19 Drives Usage Surge

Microsoft says the number of active Teams users has spiked 38% in the past week.

Jeffrey Schwartz

March 19, 2020

4 Min Read
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (left) and corporate vice president Jared Spataro (right) hold a virtual press briefing to discuss the impact of COVID-19.

Pictured above:  Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (left) and corporate vice president Jared Spataro (right) hold a virtual press briefing to discuss the impact of COVID-19.

Microsoft Teams usage has more than doubled in the past four months with the company revealing that 44 million people actively work with the chat-based communications and collaboration tool.

During the past week, the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled a spike in active Teams users by 12 million, or 38%, according to today’s new figures from Microsoft, as record numbers of people have suddenly become confined to working at home.

The latest surge comes as Microsoft commemorates the third anniversary of Teams, released in March 2017 to all business and enterprise Office 365 subscribers. Microsoft today is also marking the latest milestones with the delivery of conferencing enhancements to Teams, which will include telephony features with the April 1 release of Microsoft 365 Business Voice in 70 countries including the U.S.

Microsoft continues to emphasize the rapid pace in which Teams is becoming the centerpiece of Office 365. In addition to surging to 44 million users from 20 million in November and 13 million last summer, Microsoft claims more than 650 enterprises with over 10,000 people now actively use Teams. Likewise, Slack usage has escalated with the company recently stating that 70% of its users are enterprises that rely on Office 365.

Now with COVID-19 upending millions of workers throughout the world for a potentially indefinite amount of time, Microsoft Teams, Slack and similar tools such as Cisco Webex and Zoom are in the spotlight more intensely. In response, Microsoft is giving 6-month free trials to premium editions of Teams, Google is offering access to the advanced version of Hangouts to G Suite customers through July 1 and Zoom is providing its video conferencing service free to K-12 schools.

“It’s incredible to see how even in a time of uncertainty organizations of all sizes are using solutions like Teams so that they can continue to be productive and continue to move forward,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a prerecorded discussion with corporate vice president Jared Spataro.

Microsoft 365 Business Voice


Microsoft’s 365 Business Voice

Initially rolled out in Canada and the U.K. in November, the global release of Microsoft 365 Business Voice will enable partners to offer PSTN calling with audioconferencing capability from the Teams client, and a cloud PBX option to organizations with up to 300 users.

“Microsoft 365 Business Voice for small and mid-sized businesses makes Teams a complete phone system,” Spataro said during the media briefing earlier this week. “It adds cloud-based telephony to Teams, for an all-in-one communication solution that brings together calling, chat, meetings, and collaboration,” Microsoft product manager for Office 365 Small Business, Jimmy Ward posted.

Available with Microsoft 365 and Office 365 subscriptions including the lower tier Essentials and Business editions, the service has a per-user, monthly cost of $20. It includes the domestic PSTN calling and audio conferencing plan that will work from the Teams client on any supported device as well as on certified Teams-enabled desk phones. Partners can help customers deploy Microsoft’s PSTN plan for Teams or to integrate third party calling plans.

Also on April 1, the new Microsoft 365 F1 for firstline workers will create a new entry level SKU priced at $4 per user per month, that includes just Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS), Teams, Yammer, SharePoint, read-only access to Office files on the web or mobile, Planner and Stream.

The previous F1 plan is now renamed F3. Priced at $10 per user per month, the Microsoft 365 F3 license adds Windows Virtual Desktop, Windows 10, forms, Exchange email, read-write access to Office online and Office Mobile Apps, among other features.

Among other new features added to Teams:

  • Conferencing enhancements: Real-time noise suppression in meetings to filter out unwanted sounds such as typing or shuffling of papers and the ability for a participant to raise his or her hand

  • Chat improvements: the ability to pull chats into a separate window, offline or low bandwidth support

  • Added features for first-line workers: Bookings, a feature that simplifies the scheduling and management of virtual appointments and integration of Teams into head-mounted camera gear form RealWear.

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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