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:
- Instant messaging and chat
- Peer to peer on net voice and video calling
- Multi participant meetings
- Desktop and file sharing
- Online address books
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.
Many companies however still run their traditional phone system (e.g. a PBX) in parallel leaving employees with two systems to navigate. The answer in many cases is to consider consolidation, fundamentally replacing the PBX so users have the ability to place and receive a phone call through a single system, being Microsoft Teams.
The initial answer to integrating external calling capabilities with Teams was Microsoft’s Calling Plans. However, implementing this had many considerations — with pricing and licensing being a big part of that.
Here, we are going to bring some clarity on how to add real PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) calling capabilities to Teams. This is a UK-focused guide. Let’s get started.
It all starts with Phone System
If you want integrated STN calling with Teams, you first need Phone System. This is a Microsoft licencing prerequisite and provides the control and management capabilities for Teams to be your phone system (be it using Calling Plans, Direct Routing or Operator Connect to access the PSTN). Effectively, Phone System is Microsoft’s answer to a PBX (Private Branch Exchange). Among other things, Phone System will let you:
- Call regular phone numbers
- Transfer, hold and forward calls.
- Create call queues and auto attendants
- 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?
The costs for Microsoft Phone System depend on whether it is included as part of a bundle or not. For example, if you have the all-in enterprise E5 subscription (currently £48.10 per-user/per-month), the good news is Phone System is included. For lesser subscriptions such as E1 or E3 it’s an add-on license costing £6.00 per-user/per-month.
Another consideration is audio conferencing. This enables users to dial-in a number to join meetings, or dial-out to bring participants into the meeting. If required, this is an incremental additional cost of of £3.00 per-user/per-month.
Microsoft 365 Business Voice
To attract SMB / SME’s Microsoft launched the Business Voice bundle back in 2020. This was limited to a maximum user count of 300. It bundled Phone System, Audio Conferencing, and a Domestic Calling Plan for £12 per user per month (reduced to £9 per month for the first 12 months). However, this was recently retired to make way for a new SKU that bundles phone system and a domestic calling plan that can be added to the following:
- Office 365 Business Essentials
- Business Premium
- A1, E1, A3 and E3
- Microsoft 365 Business, A3 or E3.
This new SKU is rumoured to be available early Jan 2022.
Microsoft Calling Plan
If you’re an existing Business Voice customer, Calling Plan may have been a bundled feature. For other 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. Calls outside of the bundle (e.g. international) require the purchase of Communication credits. These must be purchased as a pre-paid bundle which is consumed based on usage.
- 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.
There are different rates based on the number of minutes you need, with two options for domestic plans and one for international:
- 120 minute Domestic Calling Plan: £4.50 per-user/per-month. Users share a pool of minutes, so for example, if you have 100 users located in the same country/region with a 120 minute Domestic Calling Plan assigned, they share a pool of 12,000 minutes.
- 1200 minute Domestic Calling Plan: £9.00 per-user/per-month. Again, user minutes are pooled.
- Domestic and International Calling Plan: Starting at £18.10 per-user/per-month, 1200 pooled user minutes of domestic — OR — 600 pooled user 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 IMinute bundles are not actually per-user but are per-plan/per-country for each organisation. This means the sum of the available minutes are pooled across users). 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 (Communication 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 increased global coverage.
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. Multiple users can be pooled across channels and geographies depending on business demand. This means you only pay for the capacity you need, rather than for every user like other Direct Routing providers. This offers significant cost savings. 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.
- Ability to build a hybrid environment: Callroute can connect Teams telephony and an existing PBX to work seamlessly. Many enterprises struggle with adoption and cannot simply unplug their existing phone system (PBX). Callroute enables the to two environments to work together allowing enterprises to migrate ina. Phased approach that suits them.
At Callroute, we can also offer true PSTN replacement in over 35 countries and coverage in 60. This means you can benefit from far greater global coverage than Microsoft Calling Plan.
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. To find out what licences you need to get started with Direct Routing check out our simple guide to Microsoft licence prerequisites.
Speak to our Direct Routing experts
Say goodbye to separate phone systems. Call from Teams in minutes with Callroute’s unique Direct Routing technology.
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 we have taken the complexity out of how Microsoft prices these offerings in this guide. 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. If you’re interested in testing our Direct Routing, we can offer a free UK phone line for life so you can test Direct Routing for as long as you need without affecting your existing set up.