Operator Connect - one year on

September 30, 2022

Operator Connect turns one this month, and as an original partner on the program, we've seen it evolve significantly in a short space of time. As the middle-ground option to connect PSTN calling in Microsoft Teams, we've seen Operator Connect quickly rise as the go-to connectivity solution of choice. Here's our 12 month review of Operator Connect and how we expect it to fare in the future. 

It’s hard to believe that
Operator Connect is only officially one year old. When Microsoft first announced its newest method to add external calling to Microsoft Teams, it highlighted the software giant’s commitment to make Teams a fully inclusive collaboration and communications tool for everyone. It was also a statement of intent that they meant business in terms of expanding their footprint in the enterprise ‘telephony’ space.

As one of the original launch partners for Operator Connect, Pure IP have been in the privileged position to see the solution develop from an embryonic idea into a very real and increasingly popular option for lighting up external calling in Teams. In fact, in the 12 months since going to GA (General Availability – Microsoft’s general public release status), we have been connecting on average nearly 15 Operator Connect customers a month.

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What is the appeal of Operator Connect?

Operator Connect was always seen as the option for combining the best of both worlds – the commercial and flexibility advantages of utilizing your own choice of carrier, with the promise of simplified management and provisioning directly within the Microsoft 365 admin centre.

That appeal is certainly resonating with a growing number of businesses of all sizes and we can cite a number of examples of organisations making the move, including:

  • Clients moving from Microsoft Calling Plans on grounds of cost savings
  • Those moving from Direct Routing to take advantage of simplified management, enabling the ability to easily delegate management tasks without the need for specialist skilled resources
  • Or even organisations where they have lost or don’t have any in-house Direct Routing skills for supporting and managing the service
  • And of course, plenty examples of businesses migrating away from legacy or more traditional non-Microsoft services to support more collaborative and flexible working styles, as well as reducing the burden of the operational and service management on in-house resources. With voice expertise becoming a rare commodity in the market, this will only continue.

How has it developed?

As you would expect, technically speaking, the solution has matured. Not that there were any major issues with it before GA, but time and real user experience always provides new insights for improvements. One good example of that is the introduction of API’s to assist with the migration of numbers from Direct Routing to Operator Connect.

From a user experience perspective, several updates have been made within the tenant, including changes to the filtering options to find operators and services. With more providers available on the program, this will need to be an ongoing program.

Also as part of their drive to further accelerate the uptake of Teams Phone, Microsoft has also announced several new programs under the Operator Connect umbrella. These include:

  • Operator Connect Conferencing: Just as Operator Connect allows you to work with your preferred PSTN provider, Operator Connect Conferencing allows you to choose your own conferencing service and bring it directly into your Teams environment for streamlined conferencing
  • Operator Connect Mobile: Allows uses to use their mobile device as a Teams Phone endpoint, providing fixed-mobile convergence and the potential for users to have a single number across Teams, mobile and desk phones. At the time of writing, Operator Connect Mobile is not generally available in market.
  • Operator Connect Accelerator: Aimed more at service providers rather than end-users, this program expediates the onboarding of new PSTN providers to the operator ecosystem. This has expanded the Operator Connect provider database, revealing a pathway for new Operators to join the program, facilitated by one of the accredited partners

What does the future hold for Operator Connect?

At the time of writing, Microsoft Teams Phone is estimated to have around 12 million monthly active users (MAU), compared to 270 million MAU for Microsoft Teams. In other words, just over 4% of Teams users are using Teams for calls. That means there is a considerable opportunity for growth.

For Operator Connect specifically, earliest stats from Microsoft reveal that minutes grew by a multiple of eight in Q3 2022, compared to Q2. Whilst there is further understanding needed from these figures, it does suggest uptake of Operator Connect is on the rise, which is a trend we see from our customers. Ultimately, we expect Teams Phone to continue snowballing in popularity, with Operator Connect becoming the go-to connectivity solution of choice for enterprises of all sizes.

But while there is clear appeal in Operator Connect as a method for lighting up voice in Teams, another of its strengths as a concept is that it can be used in conjunction with the other option such as Direct Routing to provide a single connected estate. Combine that with a provider who can incorporate the integration of other calling applications such as Contact Centers, and legacy communication systems, you have a powerful proposition to answer the enterprise communication of most businesses.

Pure IP are an original Operator Connect launch partner, offering connectivity in 45 countries with our secure, resilient and fully managed global voice service.

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Tania Morrill

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