Microsoft Calling Plan UK

Your Guide To Microsoft Calling Plans In The UK 

Let’s understand exactly what’s on offer when it comes to Microsoft calling plans in the UK. 

First up, we must start with a clarification of the interchangeable term calling plan. 

Microsoft has named its own calling plan, Calling Plan. Which can be a little confusing when talking to a layperson about calling in Microsoft Teams. 

That’s right, there is a Microsoft product named Calling Plan. This will always be capitalised, which is how you can spot the difference. 

For the avoidance of doubt, when referring to calling plans in general, it will not be capitalised. 

Got it? 

Right, onto the available calling plans for Microsoft Teams in the UK. 

What is a calling plan? 

A calling plan is the associated number of minutes and types of calls you can place when you take out a phone line or VoIP calling license. This applies to any type of phone service, be it on-premises, cloud, mobile, monthly, or annually. 

Detail usually expands to domestic, international, calling minutes, and—in the world of mobile contracts—data and SMS messages. 

An example calling plan might look like: 

Phone line rental £10 per month 

  • Includes 3,000 domestic minutes 
  • Includes 300 international minutes 
  • Calls outside the plan cost £0.01 per minute  

Note: this is an example for demonstration purposes only. 

What is Microsoft Calling Plan? 

Microsoft Calling Plan is the name of its retail calling product. You can bundle Microsoft Calling Plan with a Microsoft Teams Phone license.  

In this scenario, Microsoft is your operator. You pay Microsoft for both the Phone license and the Calling minutes. There is no need for a third-party calling carrier like BT or Gamma.  

Everything is hosted in the Microsoft cloud. There is no need for any on-premises infrastructure. 

Without Microsoft Calling Plan, or a calling plan provided by a third-party operator, users can’t make external calls with Microsoft Teams. Their Teams calling capabilities will be restricted to internal only. 

Microsoft Calling Plan is available is a number of countries, including the UK. 

To set up Microsoft Calling Plan in the UK, you just need to subscribe to the service in the Teams Admin Center. 

Can I port numbers to Microsoft Calling Plan? 

Yes, if you have existing phone numbers you wish to retain, you can port them to Microsoft Calling Plan. 

Microsoft is a genuine telecoms operator so usual porting regulations and processes apply. 

How many minutes do I get with Microsoft Calling Plan? 

Minutes differ depending on the type of Microsoft Calling Plan you subscribe to. 

In the UK, you can choose from: 

  • Domestic Calling Plan 
  • International Calling Plan 
  • Pay-As-You-Go Calling Plan 

Microsoft Teams Domestic Calling Plan 

How many minutes are included in the Microsoft Teams Domestic Calling Plan? 

You can choose from different bundles of minutes when subscribing to the Microsoft Teams Domestic Calling Plan: 

  • 120 domestic minutes 
  • 240 domestic minutes 
  • 1,200 domestic minutes 

If you opt for the Microsoft Teams Domestic and International Calling Plan, you get: 

  • 1,200 domestic minutes or 600 international minutes, whichever is reached first 

It’s important to note that while these minute bundles are priced per user per month, minutes do overflow to other users within that same bundle. 

For example, five users may have 120-minute bundles. This means a total of 600 minutes are available for those five users. If one goes over their 120 minutes, they can use the remainder of the total 600 available.  

However, there is no cross-bundle spillover. So, if those five users burn through their 600 minutes (5 x 120), they can’t dip into the minutes available from users who subscribe to a 240-minute bundle. 

What happens when I exceed the number of minutes in the Microsoft Calling Plan? 

When a bundle’s minutes are used up, calling doesn’t stop. Users can still make calls, but charges are per minute. 

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. 

Can I make international calls with Teams? 

Yes, you can make international calls with Teams. You just need to make sure your business subscribes to the International Calling Plan if you choose Microsoft Calling Plan. 

International calls are possible in Microsoft Teams

Without a subscription to this Calling Plan, users won’t be able to dial internationally from Teams. 

Pay-As-You-Go Calling Plan 

The Microsoft Pay-As-You-Go Calling Plan allows users to make external calls within their region without the need to subscribe to a Calling Plan. 

An alternative to subscribing to the Domestic or International Calling Plan, Pay-As-You-Go is charged based on the minutes used, either with Communication Credits or post-usage billing. 

The UK falls under Pay-As-You-Go Calling Plan Zone-1-Canada and UK.

To purchase Pay-As-You-Go, head to the Microsoft 365 Admin Center and follow these steps: 

  • Select Billing  
  • Click Purchase services  
  • Choose Add-on subscriptions  
  • Select Buy now 
Adding the Pay-As-You-Go Calling Plan  in the Microsoft 365 admin center

Once you’ve done this, you need to top up your account with Communication Credits or set up post-consumption billing. 

The Communications Credits process is more long-winded. Read more about this on the Microsoft website. 

If you purchase a Pay-As-You-Go Calling Plan via the new commerce experience (NCE) then Microsoft sets you up as post-consumption billing by default. 

Communication Credits ensure users don’t use minutes that aren’t pre-funded. But when they need to make more external calls, they will come to you for more Communication Credits. Using the post-consumption model leaves the door open to unplanned bills if users make more calls than expected. 

This is a major disadvantage of using the Pay-As-You-Go Calling Plan for operations at scale. However, it may be useful for users who make little/infrequent calls. 

The disadvantages of Microsoft Calling Plan in the UK 

While customers like the single bill approach (Microsoft bills for Phone, Calling, and Collaboration), there are three major disadvantages to Microsoft Calling Plans. 

1 – Lack of extended coverage 

It’s unlikely to cover all the countries your UK business has an office in.  

Sure, if you’re UK-only then there’s no problem.  

But if you have four offices in the UK and one in Portugal, for example, you need a different solution for the Portugal office. 

Likewise, larger scale operations that have four offices in the UK, three in the US, and several dotted around Europe, you need to set up different Calling Plans or opt for a different solution. 

2 – Inefficient when scaling 

When you’re scaling into the thousands of users, it’s not cost-effective to subscribe every user to a bundle of minutes they’re never going to use. 

Likewise, opting for Pay-As-You-Go can become expensive when teams make unplanned calls that aren’t covered in bundled minutes. 

You can mix and match users. For example, you can subscribe 1,000 users who make lots of calls to the 1,200 minutes bundle and 1,000 users who rarely make external calls to the Pay-As-You-Go plan. 

But this is time-consuming, hard to track, and is often too late to adjust when you realise users have gone over their minutes cap. 

3 – Unsatisfactory for failover 

When you choose Microsoft as your telco operator, you keep everything inside the Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure.  

This means there is no ability to reroute outside of Microsoft Teams. When your phone system goes down, you can’t failover to another phone system. 

Likewise, you lose the ability to divert calls to mobiles as Microsoft is the phone carrier too. If the Microsoft Calling “network” is down, it can’t deflect calls elsewhere either. 

And while a 99.99% uptime guarantee automatically applies to current Teams Phone customers, that doesn’t mean its bulletproof. 

Microsoft Calling Plan is great for its own niche use cases. However, this is where solutions like Operator Connect and Direct Routing come into play as viable alternatives. 

Read Next: Never Miss A Call With Automatic Failover For Microsoft Teams 

What is the difference between Microsoft Calling Plan and Operator Connect? 

Microsoft Calling Plan is the option where Microsoft provides both the Phone System and the Calling Plan. You have a single provider for everything covered in your telephony needs. 

Operator Connect, on the other hand, is when telecom providers are directly connected to Microsoft on the back-end network. 

This means providers can provide their telephony services while you keep using Teams as the front-end for calls. 

Microsoft Operator Connect diagram

For example, users still use Teams for the dial pad and directory. But what’s powering those calls is a traditional telco operator. 

It’s not particularly easy to become an Operator Connect partner, so you can be confident that the telco you choose has undergone significant scrutiny from Microsoft. 

Operator Connect partners in the UK include: 

  • Aura 
  • Bandwidth 
  • BICS 
  • BT 
  • Colt Technology Services 
  • Fusion Connect 
  • Gamma 
  • GTT 
  • HelloTeams 
  • LoopUp 
  • NFON 
  • NTT 
  • NuWave 
  • Orange Business Services 
  • Proximus 
  • Pure IP 
  • SCB Global 
  • Six Degrees 
  • Tata Communications 
  • Virgin Media O2 Business 
  • Vodafone Business 

This list is up to date as of August 2023. For the latest version, see this Microsoft page and filter to United Kingdom only. 

The main differences between Microsoft Calling Plan and Operator Connect are outlined below: 

Microsoft Calling Plan Operator Connect 
Activate quickly Requires planning and setup 
Access in Teams Admin Center Telco makes changes 
Good for basic calling requirements Good for complex requirements 
Regular monthly billing Covers regions outside of Microsoft Calling Plan 
Per user billing Extensive reporting and analytics 

You may also like: A Viable Alternative To Microsoft Operator Connect 

The third option to enable calling in Microsoft Teams in the UK is Direct Routing. 

Microsoft Teams Direct Routing 

Microsoft Teams Direct Routing is when Microsoft supports connecting session border controllers (SBCs) to Teams. This could either be your own SBC or a vendor’s environment. 

The physical or virtual SBC connects telephony (on-premises or virtual) on one side to the cloud (Teams). There’s no certification for vendors or end customers to become ready-to-use for Teams. Only the physical equipment can be Teams-certified. 

When you opt for Direct Routing, you get Teams access to unique functionality that an SBC enables. This includes traditional PBX features that you can’t (yet, at least) replicate on a Microsoft Calling Plan deployment. 

So, if you need any/all of the following PBX features, Direct Routing is likely the best choice: 

  • PBX interop 
  • Least cost routing 
  • Media bypass 
  • SIP trunks 
  • Analog devices 
  • Fax  
  • ISDN connectivity 
  • Local site breakout 
  • Survival branch appliance 
  • Complex routing 
  • Extension support 
  • Disaster recovery 

How to set up Microsoft Teams Direct Routing 

To set up Direct Routing, you need a Microsoft Teams Phone license. If you have the E5 version of Microsoft 365, that licence comes standard. Otherwise, you will need to buy it separately. 

There are lots of Direct Routing providers with differing infrastructure options. 

The next step is to find a provider that can deliver a sophisticated Direct Routing solution capable of meeting your business requirements.  

For this, you have two options: 

  • Stand-alone Direct Routing: The traditional choice is a managed service provider able to integrate your existing PSTN carrier with Teams. This requires communication across multiple stakeholders, slowing down, and complicating the process.  
  • Integrated Direct Routing: The simpler option is to find a PSTN carrier able to deliver Direct Routing themselves.  

What is the difference between Microsoft Calling Plan and Direct Routing? 

The main differences between Microsoft Calling Plan and Direct Routing are highlighted below: 

Microsoft Calling Plan Direct Routing 
Activate quickly Requires planning and setup 
Access in Teams Admin Center Possible to integrate with line of business apps 
Good for basic calling requirements Good for complex requirements 
Regular monthly billing Covers regions outside of Microsoft Calling Plan 
Per user billing Achieve feature parity with previous phone system  

One of the biggest use cases for Direct Routing is for local breakout in regions that only allow local breakout, like India, for example. In these cases, it’s not possible to imitate local breakout due to local governance and regulations. 

Another major win for Direct Routing is the control that Teams admins get over their own infrastructure. If you manage your own SBC (via Direct Routing), you have total control over your telephony and there’s no middle person to slow down any moves, adds, and changes. 

Read Next: Direct Routing vs Microsoft Calling Plan for Teams 

Is Microsoft Calling Plan right for me? 

The ultimate question. It’s why you clicked this article, after all. 

Microsoft Calling Plan is right for you if: 

  • You have infrequent callers who prefer Pay-As-You-Go 
  • You value instant access over complex setups 
  • You value a single bill over PBX features 
  • You don’t have offices/users overseas 

But opt for an alternative if you plan on any of the following: 

  • Frequent callers who might run over minute bundles 
  • Scaling to multiple regions and thousands of users 
  • Achieving feature parity with your existing PBX 
  • Complex routing and/or contact centres 
  • In-depth usage reporting and analytics 

Next Steps: Check out Callroute’s self-service platform to connect any carrier, in any country to Microsoft Teams. We put number management, policy management, and PSTN connections into a single portal.

Click here to learn more about Callroute

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