Understanding Microsoft Operator Connect

To understand what Operator Connect is, and where it fits into the broader telecoms picture, we need to take a quick step back to where it all began.

Microsoft Teams was launched in November 2016 as part of the Office 365 Productivity Suite. Initially, a chat-based workspace, the application’s features rapidly evolved and expanded to become the industry leader in Unified Communications. Today, Teams is Microsoft’s fastest growing application (of all time!) and recorded an astounding 270 million active monthly users in 2022.

A particular feature that is key is the application’s ability to let users make and receive calls in Microsoft Teams. Initially, there were two options:

Option 1: Microsoft Calling Plans.

Bundles of voice minutes are bought directly from Microsoft. A per-user fee is also applied, making it an easy-to-implement and affordable option for smaller companies, looking for a simple voice solution.

Option 2: Direct Routing.

This is the process of connecting existing telephony structures to Microsoft Teams. Typically, a more cost-effective option for larger companies, Direct Routing can also cater to more complex telephony systems. This hybrid approach allows users to benefit by having the best of both worlds, tailored telephony with collaborative working tools.

While Direct Routing quickly gained popularity and remains the most popular way to voice-enable Teams, Microsoft were concerned with the varying levels of quality and customer satisfaction. This directly impacted Microsoft and the need for a more controlled process was clear. So, over the course of 2021, Microsoft launched Operator Connect.

Option 3: Operator Connect

Where Teams administrators can select lines and minutes from an approved Carrier in the Operator Connect Marketplace.






What is Operator Connect?

Microsoft say the service is “a new way for customers to simply and quickly enable PSTN calling for Teams, using services from non-Microsoft telephony operators”

Operator Connect offers the Teams administrator the ability to engage with Carriers for their lines and minutes, knowing that they have an approved and certified connection with Microsoft Teams. It is the Microsoft-approved way for external Carriers to connect their phone systems to Teams. When selecting this option, end-users not only have the flexibility of choosing their own Carrier, they can also be assured that the service, quality and customer experience levels set out by Microsoft are being met.

As a Carrier, you must be approved by Microsoft to form part of the Operator Connect ecosystem. The certification process is a strict one and there are various criteria that Carriers need to comply with from an automation, network, infrastructure and customer experience perspective. Once done, you are added to their list of Operator Connect partners that end-users can choose from.


Why should I know about Operator Connect?

Operator Connect is predicted to be one of the Carrier industry’s biggest business drivers over the next five years. In fact, the demand for Microsoft Teams telephony is growing so rapidly that the number of users is projected to double by 2026.


  • Microsoft Teams continues to grow: The number of active Teams users grows on average by about 3 Million extra users every 30 days. As the application’s market penetration continues to dominate, so will the potential of its telephony solution.
  • Permanent shifts in how we do business: Over the past two years, Unified Communications has fundamentally changed the way we do business and there is no sign of it slowing down. To the contrary, it will become even more integrated and replace even more business processes and legacy systems in a post-pandemic world.
  • The launch of Operator Connect: A relatively new initiative, Operator Connect is expanding Microsoft’s telephony reach, making it a more viable and attractive option for Carriers and end-users alike.
  • New channel to market: As an approved Carrier, you are immediately added to the Operator Connect Marketplace. When looking for a Carrier partner, this is one of the first places Teams Administrators go, making it a powerful lead generator.





Getting Started with Microsoft Operator Connect

While Operator Connect is relatively new, most experts agree that it will become a cornerstone of the Microsoft Teams telephony landscape. As a Carrier, now is the time to be ahead of your competitors, to onboard and reap the rewards of Operator Connect. It’s no secret that Microsoft is disrupting the market. The question is, will you be ready to use their upwards trajectory to bolster your business’ advantage?


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