Microsoft Teams for voice calling - Your FAQs answered

How to / Guide

October 24, 2022

We’ve supported hundreds of businesses as they move to Microsoft Teams for voice calling. And with each migration, regardless of sector, we get some common questions from customers. Here are those top five questions answered.

Microsoft Teams now boasts over 270 million Monthly Active Users who have adopted the platform as their hybrid working hub. And now, many businesses are evaluating its cloud telephony capabilities to use Microsoft Teams for voice calling.

For more than a decade, we’ve been working closely with Microsoft to design & deliver voice services for all the different iterations of their Unified Communications products. Millions of users rely on our services daily, from standard office and knowledge workers to user in highly regulated and mission critical sectors such as finance and emergency services.

Here are the top five questions we get from businesses who are getting started with Teams Phone, with answers from our voice experts.

1. What are the options for connecting Teams to the outside world?

To use Microsoft Teams for voice calling, you’ll have to connect to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to make external calls. Microsoft Teams offers three options to connect – Calling Plans, Operator Connect and Direct Routing. 

  • Microsoft Teams Calling Plans: Provides bundles of domestic and international minutes and per user pricing directly from Microsoft (requires the correct license. Read on for more on licensing). With this option, Microsoft works as your telco.  
  • Operator Connect: Allows you to add PSTN calling from directly within the 365 admin center by connecting carrier services from Microsoft approved Operators. With this option, you work with a carrier like Pure IP or another approved telco.
  • Direct Routing: Allows you to connect external carrier services from your chosen provider to Teams via a Session Border Controller (SBC) located either on-premise or in the cloud.

2. Operator Connect or Direct Routing?

As the newest PSTN connectivity option offered by Microsoft, we’ve seen Operator Connect rise in popularity with our customers. It was brought in to fill the gap between Calling Plans and Direct Routing and allows organizations to add and manage standard voice services through the Microsoft 365 Admin Centre, choose their own carrier and access some of the cost savings of Direct Routing.

Operator Connect is on par with Direct Routing and stacks up in all the key areas including security and quality, geographic coverage, integrations and costs. And since it is easier to configure and provision than Direct Routing, it is a compelling option.

That said, Direct Routing is still slightly more flexible than Operator Connect. If your organization has complex needs such as specific routing requirements or some integrations, Direct Routing may be required.  It is not uncommon for enterprises to have a blend of both Operator Connect and Direct Routing in their estate.

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3. What license do I need to enable Microsoft Teams voice?

One of the long-standing benefits of Microsoft Teams is the core features and functionality that you get as standard within the Office 365 license. But when adding phone to Teams, it’s important to note that an additional license may be required. And those requirements and ever-changing, so do check with Microsoft for the most up-to-date information.

Most enterprise organizations will be on an E license plan, such as the E3 or E5. There are variants of these licenses for certain sectors such as charities and government organizations.

The most common license is E3 which doesn’t include phone but does include PSTN conferencing. It will allow you to get numbers for your meetings, but won’t allow you to make a phone call. In this scenario, you’d require an additional Teams Phone License which will enable Teams Phone. In addition, you’ll need to add your PSTN connectivity option – Calling Plans, Direct Routing or Operator Connect.


An increasing number of organizations are opting for Microsoft's E5 SKU for their users, which is a full bundle of services, which includes Teams Phone. If you already have that license, you can get going with Teams Phone and just need to add the PSTN connection. This license also includes additional security elements, Office 365 and other Microsoft Apps.

4. How do I ensure geographic coverage across multiple regions and sites?

One of the key benefits of Microsoft Teams Phone is to get all users, in all locations taking and making calls from a single cloud telephony platform with a consistent user experience. And for multinationals, it’s crucial to ensure adequate coverage across multiple regions. Achieving regional coverage depends on the method of PSTN connectivity you use so it’s important to weigh the options carefully. 

For multinationals, Operator Connect and/or Direct Routing are favored as Microsoft’s Calling Plans are only available in certain countries and can be the more expensive option. It’s important to note that with Operator Connect coverage will depend on the operator you chose to work with. Not all operators are licensed in each country so it’s important to find an operator that services the regions you operate in.

For those harder to reach countries, or more complex configurations that require an on-premise SBC, Direct Routing could be required. As is the case for Operator Connect, your service will be limited to the countries the Operator is licensed in.

5. What will I do with legacy environments and investments?

Depending on the carrier, some (including Pure IP) offer services that can integrate and consolidate legacy systems and devices into a connected single service for ease of management. This is only possible with Operator Connect and Direct Routing.

In case you missed it ...

Catch-up on demand with our latest event, 'Your Teams Phone Questions Answered' where our expert panel answers popular questions from customers, and those from the audience.

Tania Morrill

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