Azure Communication Services: How it works and why you need it

How to / Guide

February 16, 2023

Millions of users around the world know and love Microsoft Teams for its rich communication features like PSTN calling, voice and video calling, conferencing and chat. But less are familiar with Azure Communication Services (ACS) – the technology that underpins our favorite features in Teams. That same technology is also available to end-users, meaning developers can plug their apps directly into ACS to enable the same communication features as in Microsoft Teams.

Every meeting and chat in Microsoft Teams runs on ACS, which demonstrates its strength as a solution. And rather than developing code from scratch, developers can simply utilize what Microsoft has already built for their own apps. This approach is often referred to as Communication Platform as a Service or CPaSS. What makes ACS a stand-out solution in the field is not only its success with Microsoft Teams, but also its interoperability potential. It integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Teams, so those using Teams already can enjoy the same user experience within a businesses’ app.

Watch below: Tom Arubuthnot breaks down Azure Communication Services

ACS and PSTN Calling

ACS makes it possible to enable voice calls from within your apps. It can also be used to receive, port and provision phone numbers. To enable voice with ACS, you’ll need to first connect to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and ACS offers two ways to do this:

  • Using Microsoft as your Telco: This is a simple and quick option where Microsoft acts as your carrier and you source your services and numbers through them directly. The downside is they are not available in all regions and with a pay per minute charging model, you may incur extra costs.
  • Bring your own carrier via Azure Direct Routing: Using this option, you can select your own carrier, or bring your existing carrier into the mix. This also allows you to connect supported SBCs, existing PBXs and other legacy equipment, which is often necessary in hard to connect regions. Some carriers, including Pure IP have their own APIs and connections to the ACS infrastructure, and use pay for what you use pricing to guarantee you only pay for the calls you make.

ACS and Microsoft’s Digital Contact Centre Platform

In the customer service and contact centre space, digital tools like voice, video, AI and automation are crucial components that elevate a customer’s interaction with a brand. Microsoft Digital Contact Centre Platform equips contact centers with modern communication tools to engage with their customers digitally and brings together elements of ACS along with Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Power Platform, and Nuance.

Within this suite, each product has its own role to play:

  • Dynamics 365: Omnichannel customer engagement with live chat, SMS, voice and video (powered by ACS) and virtual agents
  • Nuance: Advanced conversational AI, security and automation
  • Power Platform: Low-code/No-code application development for automation and reporting (Power BI)
  • Teams: Collaborate and connect across the organisation, agents and customers
  • Azure: The infrastructure that supports all of the services and ACS for SMS, PSTN and Video

ACS is just a part of the platform which is packaged as a playbook that provides crucial tools for a modern multi-channel contact centre. Users can utilise some or all elements of the platform according to their business needs. With the majority of contact centers still using on-premise solutions, this a big opportunity for the cloud market and one which we expect to see substantial growth in.

Where do I sign up?

For many developers, ACS is a no-brainer. It’s a flexible and agile way to bring voice and other communications features into their applications without the need to build code from scratch. And since it powers one of world’s most popular collaboration and communication platforms, Microsoft Teams, accessing the same technology is seen as a game changer for those building their own solutions.

Looking to add voice to ACS or Microsoft’s Digital Contact Centre Platform? Pure IP have been working with Microsoft for over a decade on solutions for all their unified communication platforms. We have direct integrations for ACS and Microsoft’s Digital Contact Centre (through Dynamics 365) and offer coverage in 137 countries, with full PSTN replacement in 47.

Have a chat with us for more information >>

Tania Morrill

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