For many, Microsoft Teams now sits at the heart of Microsoft 365. The basic internal Teams communication features include capabilities you would expect from a leading business collaboration platform. These include:
- File sharing
- Group calls
- Online address books
- Missed call notification
This is probably enough for internal communication, but is too limited for external use. For this, you need to add capabilities like reception consoles, call queues and international calling. Fundamentally, you need to be able to place and receive a phone call with Teams.
The Microsoft answer to integrating real calling capabilities with Teams is Calling Plan. Unfortunately, getting this set up and ready to go is easier said than done — and pricing and licensing is a big part of that.
It all starts with Phone System
If you want Calling Plan, you first need Phone System. It’s a licencing prerequisite, it also provides the control and management capabilities for Calling Plan. Effectively, Phone System is Microsoft’s answer to a PBX (Private Branch Exchange). Among other things, Phone System will let you:
- Create call queues
- Set up call forwarding
- Configure caller ID
- Transfer to voicemail
- Block or route incoming calls
Phone System does leave some things to be desired as a PBX. We’ll come back to this, but if you want a full breakdown of Microsoft Phone System, see our blog — Microsoft Phone System Reviewed.
How much does Phone System cost?
If you have the all-in enterprise E5 subscription (currently £30.80 per-user/per-month), the good news is Phone System is included. For everyone else — it’s an add-on license.
For other Enterprise packages (E1 and E3), it will cost £6.00 per-user/per-month
Microsoft 365 Business Voice
For Microsoft 365 Business Basic, Standard and Premium users, you have to purchase Phone System as part of the Microsoft 365 Business Voice package. Business Voice is an SME telephony offering that bundles Phone System, Audio Conferencing, and (potentially) a Domestic Calling Plan.
There are two types of Business Voice licenses:
- Business Voice with Calling Plan: Which will allow you to make calls.
- Business Voice without Calling Plan: Which means you need a Direct Routing provider to make calls — keep reading to find out more.
The type of Business Voice license available will also depend on the location of your Microsoft 365 tenant. As standard, Business Voice bundles Phone System with Microsoft Domestic Calling Plan and costs £12.00 per-user/per-month. When purchased independently of Calling Plan, Business Voice starts at £7.50 per-user/per-month. This is the license fee for Phone System and Audio Conference, and has to be purchased through a partner.
Right now, Business Voice limits you to 300 users.
Pro tip: It is worth contacting Microsoft to figure out the most straightforward way to add Phone System to your existing licences. There are significant regional variations to Microsoft licences, and there are legacy licences that make things even more complicated.
Microsoft Calling Plan
If you’re a Business Voice customer, Calling Plan is a bundled feature — look at the previous section for more details. For enterprise customers, it’s purchased independently.
Calling Plan pricing is based on a per-user licence. Calling Plans bundle minutes with a phone number for each user. Service is provided directly from Microsoft 365, there is no additional PSTN carrier contract.
These are two Calling Plan options:
- Domestic Calling Plan (from £4.50 per-user/per-month): Licensed users can call numbers located in the country/region where they are assigned in Microsoft 365 or Office 365.
- Domestic and International Calling Plan (from £18.10 per-user/per-month): Licensed users can call numbers located in the country/region where they are assigned in Microsoft 365 or Office 365, and to international numbers in 196 specific countries/regions. Most countries/regions are included, but some may not be included in the Microsoft Calling Plan or Audio Conferencing subscriptions.
These fees are in addition to your Phone System licence.
These rates are then actually determined based on the number of minutes you need. There are two options for domestic plans and one for international:
- 120 minute Domestic Calling Plan: £4.50 per-user/per-month
- 1200 minute Domestic Calling Plan: £9.00 per-user/per-month
- Domestic and International Calling Plan: Starting at £18.10 per-user/per-month, 1200 minutes of domestic — OR — 600 minutes of international calling (whichever is reached first in the calendar month)
How do call minute packages work?
Minute bundles are not actually per-user but are per-plan/per-country for each organisation. For a Domestic and International plan, the “minutes total” is reached when either the international or domestic minute total is reached, whichever is reached first in the calendar month. If you want to dial a destination outside of your calling plan, or go over your allotted minutes, you will need to have sufficient prepaid calling credits, otherwise you won’t be able to place that call. However, this brings us directly to the next point…
What happens when I exceed the number of minutes?
With Communications Credits enabled, you can pay per-minute for any excess. Communications Credits is a prepaid bank that can be run down per-minute. The rate, however, is variable and depends on geography and call recipient.
Pro tip: If you run out of minutes and you haven’t set up Communications Credits billing and assign a Communications Credits license to your users, your users won’t be able to make calls.
Do you actually want Calling Plan?
Calling Plan isn’t the only way to make and receive phone calls with Teams. An alternative option to consider is “Direct Routing with Phone System”. As the name implies, this solution still requires Phone System. However, it relegates Phone System to a licencing prerequisite — connecting Teams to a real PBX, delivering more sophisticated call controls while potentially being cheaper than Calling Plan.
With Direct Routing, you have the freedom to choose your carrier, add additional telephony services and enjoy a complete corporate telephony solution. Suggested reading: What is Direct Routing?
At Callroute, we provide a Direct Routing service. Using our own solution as an example, with Callroute, you get:
- Per-channel rather than per-user pricing: We charge per-channel/per-month, and the first channel is free. Multiple users can be added to each channel depending on business demand. This means you only pay for the capacity you need, rather than for every user like other Direct Routing providers. Autoscaling lets you increase channels in line with demand without worrying that customers will receive a busy tone.
- Straightforward minutes: Per-minute overages are only charged at the standard Callroute tariff rate. That means if you go over your inclusive minutes bundle, any additional minutes you need will be charged at the standard Callroute tariff rate. Never get hit with an unexpected bill or fee.
- Real PBX functionality: Callroute connects Teams to a real PBX. That means you can access all of the control and monitoring features provided by true telephony.
If you already have Phone System, we can get you set up and placing your first call in minutes. Callroute automates the end-to-end Direct Routing set up, from SBC configuration through to number provisioning and porting, enabling users to place external calls from Teams in a few clicks.
We also offer businesses a free voice channel for life rather than a time limited trial. No commitments and no card required. Our free channel includes:
- A free voice channel
- 1 dedicated UK number
- 250 minutes
- Analytics and reporting
- Full customer support
Sign up using our self-serve platform to start placing external calls from Teams in minutes, free.
Telephony completes Teams
Adding real calling capabilities to Teams unlocks the possibility to unify both internal and external communication within the platform. The ability to place a normal phone call is a significant weakness of most business collaboration platforms — and it’s one that limits your ability to create truly unified communications.
Luckily, Teams has the potential to be that single, unified communications platform. Microsoft’s answer is Calling Plan and Phone System. We hope to have taken some of the complexity out of how Microsoft prices these offerings. However, the real answer to true calling with Teams is to sidestep Calling Plan altogether. Direct Routing delivers complete functionality, letting you not only place a call with Teams, but replace your phone system with Teams. Good luck, and start calling.