Microsoft Teams and PSTN Calling
Since COVID-19 forced so many of us home to work instead of the office, we’ve become accustomed to using video conferencing tools like Microsoft Teams to collaborate with coworkers, clients and partners. With almost one-third of employed U.S. adults working from home now, it’s easy to see how global downloads of video conferencing apps are 90% higher than they were before COVID-19 shut things down.
Many people jump onto a Teams conference call using VoIP from their mobile device or desktop computer audio system, but some need to call in from a landline. What then? Does Microsoft Teams support PSTN calling?
What Is PSTN?
The communications world is full of acronyms, like PSTN. It stands for “Public Switched Telephone Network.” While you may not know its technical name, this type of phone system is what you likely are most familiar with, as it is the traditional phone system (landline) that has been in use in homes and offices for the past 100 years or so. A PSTN includes physical telephone lines, fiber optic cables, a global network of switching centers, satellites and cable systems.
The National Interest organization highlights a few interesting statistics about landlines, saying that in 2004, more than 90% of U.S. households had an operational landline phone. Today, only 40% do. Over half of U.S. households depend solely on wireless service. PSTN calling may be less prominent today than in the past, but there are still enough homes and businesses out there to make sure people who use them can connect with your business.
Why Is It Important to Enable Microsoft Teams PSTN Calling?
When you set up a Microsoft Teams call, the system’s default is to offer your invited guests to click on a link to join the meeting. If your caller is one of the 40% who still use a landline phone in their home office or business, there is no option for them to dial in from a traditional PSTN phone number. Anyone without decent internet or cellular connectivity, issues with their VoIP from their desktop or mobile device, or no microphone and camera on their desktop have no way to join the meeting.
To give your attendees multiple options to join your call and to not exclude invitees who use PSTN, you need to enable Microsoft Teams PSTN calling. This will also make sure anyone already on Teams conference call will be able to dial out to a landline.
How to Enable Microsoft Teams PSTN Calling
The steps and costs involved with enabling Teams PSTN Calling depends on the type of Microsoft 365 license of the person scheduling the Teams conference. According to Tom Talks, here is how you can add PSTN dial-in to Teams:
- If you have Office 365 E5, typically PSTN Audio Conferencing is included (but there is a specific E5 SKU with PSTN audio conferencing excluded).
- If you have Office 365 E1 or E3, Audio Conferencing is available as a standard $4.00/month add-on per user, or you can enable users for Pay Per Minute PSTN audio conferencing.
- If you have below 300 users and are on one of the SME Office 365 Business SKU’s or E3, you can also add Telephony and PSTN Audio Conferencing with the Business Voice SKU.
Microsoft 365 licenses do not apply to meeting attendees, only the person setting up the meeting.
If all of this still sounds complicated and pricey, you may want to opt to use a network partner who can boost your entire network to be able to accommodate all users and modern capabilities. A partner like BCM One will enable Microsoft Teams PSTN calling, plus give you a robust, unified communications platform that includes enterprise-level voice features with the collaboration features you love with Microsoft Teams.
Voice for Microsoft Teams
As great as Teams is for bringing people together virtually, the truth is, its functionality is often not enough. There are plenty of businesses who need both Microsoft Teams and traditional voice capabilities. PSTN calling is just one beneficial enterprise voice feature to add to Teams.
To avoid piecemealing various voice features onto the Microsoft Teams platform, many organizations are consolidating enterprise voice with Teams for a streamlined platform with greater flexibility and connectivity. Instead of paying separately to connect only PSTN to Teams, you can add in advanced call routing and queues, intercom/paging, increased security, contact center, SIP Trunk sharing and linking, messaging, cloud calling, telephony extensions, and business intelligence. You can integrate your voice-enabled Teams platform with other business apps as well for a fully-unified network.
The result is a highly robust, comprehensive voice, video, and chat platform that easily scales to the different ways your people work. All of the features are available to every user with a Microsoft Teams license, not just people who schedule Teams meetings. The calling plans are affordable and can be customized to specific business needs, unlike Microsoft Calling Plans which are widely considered limited and expensive.
Setting Up Voice Enabled Teams
Microsoft offers Direct Routing for customers who want to add PSTN and other enterprise voice features to their Teams instance. For many organizations, the technical skills and potential add-on technology to connect different locations and users is outside of their core capabilities.
By partnering with a Microsoft Gold Partner, like BCM One, you can get end-to-end Microsoft Teams deployment. Everything from Microsoft licenses and less expensive calling plans to expert implementation, training and support is included. You can add on optional features to create a customized platform that fits individual user needs, as well as corporate budgets.
Offloading voice enabled Teams to networking professionals also allows your team to focus on what they do best, having full confidence that the communications and collaboration network is fully optimized with the precise features they need. As requirements change, particularly in today’s more uncertain world, it is easy to modify the network and calling plans. You pay for what they actually need and use.
Of course, not every company is ready for a full-fledged migration. If you want to take it a bit slower, be sure you partner with a Microsoft Gold Partner who takes time to understand your goals, challenges, budget, and timeframe. They will be less likely to push certain products or migration timelines. Instead, they will learn about your needs per location and the intricacies of your existing network to custom design a detailed roadmap for a more gradual transition.
Whichever scenario you fall into, be sure that the primary goal of your provider is to deliver you a streamlined network that meets your requirements, scales as your business changes, and gives you the utmost reliability.
Your partner should also be able to determine and bring any equipment, parts, or technology required to tie everything together in the most efficient and secure way possible. For instance, if you are looking to enable Microsoft Teams PSTN calling, be certain the partner you select can work with your existing phones versus recommending you purchase new desk phones that Microsoft Teams support. You can save significant money by using your existing phone system, and should have the flexibility to use any brand of phone system you want.
Microsoft Teams PSTN calling is available, but there’s no reason to limit what you can do with your communications. By unifying your enterprise phone system with Microsoft Teams, you will create a network equipped to support your employees across every channel without sacrificing traditional voice features. Work with a trusted managed service provider who will guide you through your options, customize a plan that fits your needs and budget, expertly configure your network, and support your team after implementation.