Operator Connect for Microsoft Teams: now available in public preview

by Hugues Treguier

02 August 2021

Smiling man wearing a headset

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Operator Connect is a new service from Microsoft for Teams. As the name suggests, it allows you to connect your chosen telephony operator – carrier – to Microsoft Teams. It puts telephony and conferencing into the heart of Teams.

At present, Microsoft does also offer Direct Routing and it’s how we currently provide carrier services in Teams. But Direct Routing is an enterprise-grade solution only. By contrast, Operator Connect is a full, natively integrated carrier-grade solution.

The many benefits of Operator Connect

This offers several significant benefits. It means you can bring your existing carrier or choose a new one. This then offers the means to rationalize your telephony real estate. Yes, you can keep or aggregate carriers, or else simplify your contractual framework to a single carrier.

In simplifying your telephony, Operator Connect offers the opportunity to save you money, time and resource. You won’t need as much PBX infrastructure, nor as many SBCs (Session Border Controllers), or as much on-premises infrastructure.

So goodbye to much of that, and hello to a carrier-grade service for both telephony, and conferencing. We’re delighted to be one of the carriers selected to offer this by Microsoft. All the more so as a leading global provider. We’re a top-tier voice service carrier and super-serve with our support on that service and on Microsoft Teams itself.

It’s also of huge benefit that Operator Connect will be fully native within Teams. You can administer your carrier service directly from the Microsoft 365 admin portal – in just the same way as you administer Teams. In the future, you may also be able to subscribe to our Cloud Voice services, giving you a fully seamless experience.

The countdown to General Availability

You may be wondering why with this next-generation platform Microsoft is giving access to other operators? After all, they have their own calling plans available in 11 countries. For me, it’s undoubtedly a realization that they can’t do it all by themselves. Instead, working with partners like NTT they can better become a global Tier One telco, both for telephony and conferencing.

Right now, Operator Connect is in public preview. This pre-release period gives us – and Microsoft’s other selected partners – time to get a good hands-on look at it. We’ve been doing that and are now giving preview access to our clients. By getting involved, you can really see how it works. You can test the functionality, get a feel for the employee experience and prepare for General Availability (GA).

The process also means users can potentially identify any bugs that need to be ironed out. It’s worth noting that this public preview is not the full service. It has limited scope. Importantly though, you can link your tenants to your operator of choice – in our case, making NTT your assigned operator. This then allows you to access our Cloud Voice services.

From a telephony point of view, you can assign plans and numbers to end-users of your choice. You can also administer various aspects of the service directly from your Teams admin portal, and also access a limited support service.

Do be aware that conferencing is not in scope during this public preview. So, no meeting workloads for the meeting access capability, and no conferencing access numbers just yet.

Get involved – and be better prepared for full rollout

Although a final GA date has not yet been announced, we recommend you experience the 30-day free trial we’re offering. If it’s something your organization would like to take part in, do bear in mind the following points.

Firstly, do remember this is currently only a partial rollout. So, don’t plan on using this across your organization. You can though handpick your end-users – your IT team, or other key people. It’s for you – no pun intended – to make the call on who to involve.

The second point is that Microsoft is not charging for Operator Connect. Of course, you do need to have Microsoft Teams’ phone system active in your Microsoft 365 subscription. So, either the phone system license or the E5 license. But if you do have either of those, you won’t pay extra to be part of the preview. And NTT is aligning to this too; we won’t be charging for any telephony consumption during this public preview.

What’s more, remember this is not yet a production-grade Microsoft service. So, there won’t be any Microsoft warranties, support or SLAs (Service Level Agreements). We will, of course, be delighted to help you every step of the way.

Do also remember that Operator Connect is still evolving. Some features may get added during public preview; others might get removed and UIs (User Interfaces) might change until GA.

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Operator Connect: taking Microsoft Teams to another level

Operator Connect lets you consolidate and modernize your telephony, make considerable savings. And without any doubt takes Microsoft Teams to another level.

If you’d like to get involved in the public preview, do read more about Operator Connect from NTT. Or use the following link to request a free Operator Connect trial.

Hugues Treguier

Hugues Treguier

VP Product Marketing & GTM Cloud Communications