Operator Connect is currently in public preview. The features discussed in this article were correct at the time of publication, but are subject to change.
When Operator Connect was first launched, there was a feeling that it was geared towards basic voice requirements, but that is not really the case. The more it has been tested out, the clearer it has become that, in terms of core voice features, it has just about everything you might need, and it is coming very close to matching Direct Routing.
There were initially a few gaps, notably Auto Attendant and Call Queues, but Microsoft have been plugging these gaps over the last few months, and have already rolled out Auto Attendant and Call Queues in Europe, the US and Asia.
A closer look at the calling features currently available on Operator Connect
Operator Connect detail
Auto attendant/ Call Queues
In roll-out (currently available in Europe, the US, Asia)
Voice policies (Dial Plan, Calling Policy, etc.)
Defaults to predefined Operator Connect carrier profiles
|Connectivity||Using trusted cross connect between Microsoft and carrier|
|Third Party Integrations||Only supports apps that have been designed specifically for Teams using 365 API Integration.|
|Global coverage||Limited to PSTN countries offered by carriers|
|Number provisioning||Included – no extra cost. New numbers and porting available|
|Service Management||Combination of 365 Admin Center and carrier’s management portal/system|
|Support||Joint Microsoft and carrier|
|Pricing flexibility||Dependent on carrier. Monthly rentals, plus ‘pay for what you use’ calls|
|Support for hybrid environment||Not supported|
|Number management||Numbers procured via Operator Connect service can be managed in 365 Admin Center. Alternatively, all numbers whether part of Operator Connect or not, can be managed in Pure IP’s Number Connect|
Let’s look at the voice policies, which will be your dial plans, calling policies, etc. While these default to predefined Operator Connect profiles, that will cover most standard scenarios. Similarly with voice routing, each carrier has provided Microsoft with a predefined set of policies. In practice, these default settings will be more than adequate for the majority of users and organizations, but for those that need the flexibility to apply customized dial plans, for example, Direct Routing can be used in conjunction with Operator Connect.
The features related to user settings, voicemail, hold music, calling, queuing, dial plans, voice routing, dynamic emergency calling, caller ID and reporting provide a good level of feature parity between Operator Connect and Direct Routing.
Integrations, customization, and migration
The main area where that isn’t the case is in integrations, customizations, and migrations, such as when integrating third party applications like Contact Centers, connecting legacy infrastructures and devices, migrating users in bulk, or using complex routing set-ups, as previously mentioned. Strictly speaking, Operator Connect only supports apps that have been designed specifically for Teams using 365 API Integrations, and the interface hasn’t been designed to assign users and policies to numbers at scale.
That means that Direct Routing probably still has the edge if your priorities are around completing a major migration, connecting non-native Teams applications or other legacy items from the existing communications estate, such as fax machines, tannoy’s, intercom, and DECT systems.
The best is yet to come!
The two things you have to remember however, is the gap Operator Connect was intended to fill, and that it is still in public preview. It is constantly evolving and there is a lot more to come. But, while it might not be the finished article, it is a very real option that organizations should be considering today.
Alessandra joined Pure IP as the Content and Communications Manager in early 2020, after 5 years within the cinema technology sector.