11 Microsoft Teams Phone Updates: Operator Connect, Apple Car Play, More

The rollout of Operator Connect aims to make it easier to integrate with PSTN providers.

Jeffrey Schwartz

September 30, 2021

11 Slides

Promised enhancements to Microsoft Teams Phone are now available. They include Operator Connect, spam call identification and Apple CarPlay support. Microsoft demonstrated the features, many of which the company revealed late last year, during this week’s Enterprise Connect virtual conference.

During a keynote session, Microsoft Teams general manager Nicole Herskowitz outlined the new Teams Phone updates. The ability to make spontaneous calls from Teams is an important component of Microsoft’s employee productivity strategy. Herskowitz touted the rapid growth of Microsoft Teams Phone.


Microsoft’s Nicole Herskowitz

“The future of calling is where calling meets collaboration,” Herskowitz said. “Nearly 80 million monthly active users and over 180 countries are relying on Teams Phone to stay connected.”

Microsoft revealed the 80 million monthly active Teams Phone users figure during a recent earnings report. Overall, the company reported 250 million monthly active users of Teams. The total number of calls surpassed 1 billion during the quarter, which ended June 30.

Microsoft’s 80 million users is significantly higher than the 4 million active Webex Calling customers Cisco disclosed earlier this month. But Lorrissa Horton, vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Webex Calling and Online business challenged the Microsoft figures.


Cisco’s Lorrissa Horton

“It’s not an apple-to-apples comparison,” she told Channel Futures earlier this month. “Microsoft announced a number that is not specific to calling; they only announced a number that was how many people use the app to make calls. But those are not necessarily PSTN calls or using the like call control infrastructure.”

Teams-Enhanced PSTN Partner Integrations

Herskowitz said new Microsoft Teams Phone releases will make it easier to enable PSTN calling, provide more “natural ways” of integrating calling into workflows with more flexibility. Operator Connect, which is now generally available with more than a dozen operator partners covering 50 markets. Herskowitz said in the coming months, Microsoft will extend Operator Connect into more market.

“This makes it easy to bring your operators to teams if they are participating in the program,” she said.

Letting customers maintain relationships with their existing communications operators will let them save on infrastructure purchase and management, Herskowitz explained.

“You will benefit from enterprise grade reliability and shared technical support,” she added.

Microsoft Teams services run on the Azure network backbone, which is connected to the customer’s telephony service provider linked to the Microsoft Azure Peering Service (MAPS). Calls from Teams Phone go through the Azure Front Door Service, Microsoft’s content delivery network (CDN), with added security. The service has more than 100 edge locations globally, according to Microsoft.

“It helps meet latency and compliance needs to route voice traffic via Azure’s super-fast network,” Herskowitz said. “And there it leaves the Azure cloud to go to the telephony service provider. They now use their network service fabric to connect the call to the recipient’s PSTN number. All this happens seamlessly as you make and receive calls. And the performance is just like it would be with the connections directly over their services.

Furthermore, partners can provision these services through the Teams Admin Center, where an administrator chooses an operator partner, assign phone numbers to users and set up policies.

“Teams Phone brings PSTN and VoIP calling together with chat and document collaboration to make calls richer, and more collaborative than ever,” Herskowitz said. “This integration brings together the different communication modalities you rely on to be productive and get work done.”

A breakdown of the new Microsoft Teams Phone services and some that are planned for later this year and into 2022 appear in the slideshow above.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Jeffrey Schwartz or connect with him on LinkedIn.


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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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