Understanding Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile

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Are you excited about using Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile? – Its poised to take the market by storm this year. But what is it?

The concept is surprisingly not new. Back in 2007, Cisco announced a feature to their Unified Call Manager called Fixed Mobile Convergence. Microsoft followed suit shortly after with their version in Lync.

Fixed Mobile Convergence is where your business mobile number replaces your traditional fixed business line and becomes the only phone number you need. It follows you wherever you are on any device no matter your connectivity. Whether it is via your mobile provider network when on the road, or to your softphone when you are on your laptop.

Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile, is what we used to call Fixed Mobile Convergence.

How is Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile Different to Teams Phone Standard?

With Teams Phone Standard, you traditionally have to purchase fixed line numbers from a provider of your choice using either Microsoft Calling Plans, Operator Connect or Bring Your Own Carrier using Direct Routing.

You would choose your fixed line numbers based on the supported area code and then assign these numbers to your Teams users.

Your users could then login to Teams on their laptop and using the mobile app to make and receive calls using that fixed line number.

With Teams Phone Mobile, you purchase mobile phone contracts with an approved Teams Phone Mobile Operator. They issue you with a dual purpose mobile number, which you can assign to your Teams user’s Teams account and by using eSIM, register your user’s mobile phone device to their network simultaneously.

Why Should I Choose Teams Phone Mobile Over Teams Phone Standard?

For back office users that are predominately home or office based, there isn’t much of an issue using Teams Phone Standard. With front-line mobile users who spend a lot of time moving around to different locations, Teams Phone Standard becomes more of a problem.

Mobile-first users face dynamic changes to their working day based on their location at any given time. The most impacting impediment to their productivity is internet connectivity. Either by WiFi or cellular data coverage (4G/5G).

Modern communications over softphone / UC apps such as Microsoft Teams require a strong and relatively stable internet connection. Anything under 3-bars of 4G coverage, the degradation is enough to make calls suffer from poor audio quality.

With Teams Phone Standard, mobile workers are dependent on connectivity to make and receive calls. Poor data coverage means loss of productivity, lost sales and increased customer and worker dissatisfaction.

Conversly, there is also a persistent issue of cost with voice calling over mobile data networks. Many companies promote BYOD, but employees are often unwilling or hesitant at least to accept work calls over data networks. Why? because calls over mobile data consumes their personal contract allowance. Over usage is expensive and the employer may or may not reimburse.

How Teams Phone Mobile Helps Solve These Problems

Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile aims to solve these problems by allowing phone calls to your Teams number to call you using the traditional GSM mobile network. No data involved.

GSM / LTE mobile networks are used by phones to transit plain phone calls and SMS. They have better range than 4-5G data networks, combined with reduced bandwidth requirements can facilitate phone calls more reliably and in a wider range of environments.

Choosing between Teams Phone Standard and Teams Phone Mobile should therefore be primarily based on your user usage profile. Mobile users require a mobile-first experience to perform their job. Teams Phone Mobile provides this.

How Do I Order Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile?

Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile is available from selected approved Microsoft Operators. Currently, the service is limited to 4 operators globally, but expect this to grow expontentially over the course of 2023. You can find a supported Operator from the Teams Admin Center, under the Operator Connect menu item.

List of the current Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile Operators
Source: Teams Admin Center (Jan 2023)

You will need to click through to the Operator’s offer landing page and continue your order journey with them.

How to License Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile?

In addition to ordering with the chosen network provider, you will also need to acquire the additional Teams Phone Mobile License from the Microsoft 365 Admin Center.

Where to buy the Teams Phone Mobile License
Teams Phone Mobile License

This license is a free add-on to Microsoft Teams Phone Standard. At the time of writing the licensing of Teams Phone Mobile has a direct 1:1 relationship with the number of Teams Phone Standard licenses you have purchased.

You cannot acquire the free mobile licenses instead of Teams Phone Standard licenses.

It is important to understand that although the Microsoft license is free, this doesn’t neccessarily mean the Mobile Operator will include Teams Phone Mobile on top of standard mobile contracts for free. Expect to pay a premium on top of any standard mobile contract for this integration.

Note: Be careful if your users already have numbers assigned to them using any other calling method. Assigning this license will immediately NULL their assigned number in Teams. Only license a user when you have completed the deployment / ordering of Teams Phone Mobile and are ready to assign the numbers.

What Is The Calling Experience For Teams Phone Mobile Users?

When you use Teams Phone Mobile you can configure a Mobile Calling policy in Microsoft Teams Admin Center and assign it to the affected users.

This policy tells the Teams mobile client to use either the native dialler or the native Teams calling app experience.

Enabling Teams Phone Mobile for users
Enabling Teams Phone Mobile for Users

This policy is only effective once the Teams Phone Mobile License is assigned to a user. You cannot trick the dialler experience using any other calling method (Calling Plans, Standard Operator Connect or Direct Routing).

When effective, the mobile user will be able to accept incoming calls using their native phone dialler with the calling experience delivered over GSM.

The mobile user will then be able to escalate that call into a Teams meeting and invite other participants if necessary. This is possible with the addition of the Teams mobile app and its integration with the smartphone operating system.

Outbound calling can be made directly from the mobile handset using the native dialler with the same escalation controls baked in.

What Are The Limitations of Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile?

Availability & Coverage

The most obvious limitation of Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile at present is coverage. Right now, you have very limited choice. This will improve over the coming year, but may still pose challenges to some who find themselves not able to take advantage of the service due to coverage or carrier selection.

Handset Compatibility

Teams Phone Mobile requires the mobile phone device to have either an eSIM or support for a secondary SIM.

eSIM stands for Embedded SIM which is a type of SIM card that is soldered onto the motherboard of the phone itself. It cannot be added or removed after market. The eSIM is programmable and has a unique identification number that can be used to register the SIM with the network provider.

Currently, only the latest iPhone 14 and high-end Android devices have this capability.

More accessible to the consumer are dual-SIM enabled phones. However, these too are generally only available in mid to high end phones.

The Return Of Company Mobiles

Coupled with the compatibility limitation, we could see the return of the company mobile phone. Requiring the employee to upgrade their personal device to a compatible phone to support business calling is not going to be taken well.

This can hinder adoption of Teams Phone Mobile unless the company is willing to provide a suitable handset as part of the employee’s tooling.

This seems a bit of an own goal from a modern workplace perspective, especially as many companies including Microsoft have pioneered BYOD into the enterprise.

Complex Costs

Understanding the hidden costs of Teams Phone Mobile will be key to whether it will be a successful solution for you.

Where the company is providing the mobile device in addition to BYOD, there is additional overhead. Both devices will need to be managed to prevent data loss. Or company policy must change to ban BYOD for Teams Phone Mobile users.

You must deal with handset breakages and supply problems will increase costs of operations vs BYOD. Handling leavers and joiners and ensuring configuration is updated (cancelled SIMs, reordering of SIMs, reconfiguring of Teams and the mobile operator’s platform etc.)

Managing data and minute plans across users with different personas (roaming etc.). All these problems that were used as a persuader to move to BYOD, suddenly may come back.

Digital Wellbeing

When a Teams Phone Standard user finishes work, they leave their desk. If someone calls their number, it is ignored. If they have Teams installed on their personal mobile, they can sign out.

With Teams Phone Mobile where users are using BYOD, unless they set their presence to DND, calls will still arrive via GSM outside of working hours.

Mobile phones do have the ability to supress calls during quiet hours. However, this is device wide. There is legitimate reasons for a user to have different operational hours between work and personal communication.

How is Teams Phone Mobile Different to Simultaneous Ring?

Simultaneous Ring is where you have a fixed business line configured on Teams and you’ve set the Teams client to also ring your mobile number. When called, both the Teams client on mobile and desktop will ring in addition to your mobile phone over GSM and native calling experience.

When using Simultaneous ring

  • The mobile experience is confusing as you have app overlay over your native dialler, making it problematic to answer natively
  • It consumes unneccesary data bandwidth on the phone
  • If answered via GSM, the company pays for the incoming call that they wouldn’t have done if answered using Teams (because it is a call forward)
  • It doesn’t allow the Teams user to make outbound calls from their business number using GSM or native dialling experience
  • Can lead to customers obtaining the user’s personal mobile number which is a privacy concern but also can jeopardise customer services and processes

Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile solves all these problems.

  • Uses the phone’s native dialler and GSM experience and suppresses the Teams mobile app until the user needs it
  • Unified call history across the native phone call history and Microsoft Teams
  • Unified voicemail. Unanswered calls to business mobile number are answered by Teams voicemail services
  • Business no longer pays for the call forward leg of a sim-ring call
  • Allows users to make outbound calls on GSM using their business number
  • Allows complete separation between work and personal mobile communication

Is Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile For Me?

Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile is definitely a technology to consider for your mobile-first employees. It will bring productivity improvements within a hybrid workforce through better connectivity. It may not replace fixed line for all your calling requirements as a business, it is not meant to.

One of the benefits of using Microsoft Teams for your telephony is the connectivity options available to you. Most businesses will find themselves using a mixture of fixed and mobile connectivity and being able to manage all users coheasively will be key to you being successful.

If you’d like to learn about how Callroute can help you manage your Teams telephony users, please get in touch.

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