There has been a lot of talk about Operator Connect lately, and for those who are active in any communication business, it has almost become a buzz word. But there still seem to be some uncertainties out there about what it is what benefits it provides to the end user. So, I thought I’d explain it, in an as non-technical way as I possibly can.
In short, what is Operator Connect?
Operator Connect is a way to add dial tone, to enable external calling, directly from your Teams interface.
This means that you can use your Teams client to place calls, just as you would in your mobile phone or landline phone.
Calling plans, Direct Routing and Direct Routing as a Service
So, to understand why Microsoft has released Operator Connect, it is good to have some background information.
To make external calls, calls outside your Teams environment, you need a dial tone. The dial tone is what lets you call out on the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) and through that you can reach any other phone number.
Before, you had three different choices when it came to getting this dial tone in Teams.
You could either buy your phone number directly from Microsoft, that way you got a calling plan, just like you do with any other common carrier. This was often a cost effective and easy solution for small business that didn’t need advanced telephony functionalities.
The other option was Direct Routing.
So, basically, you can connect your own company’s on-premise phone line, into Teams. Either if you have, for example, analogue phone lines or SIP trunks, you can connect them to your Teams Application. And you do this through the Direct Routing feature that Microsoft offers.
Simply put, this connects your Teams application to the dial tone you have at your office. But unfortunately, it’s not as simple to actually do. You handle this through an SBC (Session Border Controller) that you need to manage in various ways like making sure the codex is properly programmed, troubleshooting call quality and such.
Direct Routing as a Service (DRaaS)
So, to save you from the hassle of having to manage your own SBC, Service Providers started to provide this functionality as a service. They provide your company with an SBC, that enables your Teams interface to reach the PSTN and the Service Provider have taken the necessary steps to ensure that your company will get good dial tone and quality calls.
Operator Connect is, in a way, the next step in the evolution in Direct Routing as a service (DRaaS).
But what are the differences between the two, you might ask. Well, not every Service Provider is allowed to deliver Operator Connect, and there are differences in the requirements on how to manage and deliver the service.
So, simply put, Operator Connect is a more certified way of delivering external telephony into Teams. And for the end-user, administrators can handle numbers and assign users directly in the Teams portal.
But let’s get into some more detail.
The difference for the end user
The big difference for the end user is the way you manage your numbers. With DRaaS, you do this via the Service Provider. Either through the Service Provider’s support, or through a Self-Service portal. With Operator Connect, an administrator can handle and assign numbers directly in the Teams admin portal.
The difference for a Service Provider
For a Service Provider, the differences are much more prominent.
Where DRaaS could be provided by anyone, Operator Connect can only be delivered by Service Providers that have jurisdiction to issue phone numbers. The Operator Connect solution also has demands on the data center and how it should work together with Microsoft. Something that ensures a more effective solution.
Voice traffic doesn’t go through the general internet but must instead go through a very controlled circuit.
So, is Operator Connect the holy grail?
Well, at least for now, that really depends on the company and its needs.
If you are a small to midsized company, with basic telephony needs, Operator Connect is a great way to select a provider for calling plans that lets you handle numbers and users in an easy way.
If you have the needs for more advanced telephony and communication features, DRaaS might still be the best solution. With DRaaS, you usually get a feature rich solution from the Service Provider, combined with the redundancy of having the Service Providers native way of communication, if Teams were to go down.
We can help Service Providers onboard Operator Connect
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