If you are an avid Microsoft Teams (Teams) user, you may have heard of Operator Connect. Microsoft announced it at Microsoft Ignite 2021 in March. Since then, there’s been buzz throughout the UC industry about Operator Connect’s features and how it stacks up to other offerings.
Many wonder what the system is, which capabilities it offers, how it differentiates from Microsoft’s Direct Routing feature for Teams, and how their team can use it. Learn more in our 101 guide to Operator Connect below.
What Is Operator Connect?
Operator Connect is an operator-managed service that allows businesses to “bring their own carrier,” or “operator,” to power calling in Teams. More specifically, users enable PSTN calling from their existing carriers directly in Teams without using Direct Routing.
Operator Connect is currently exclusively available through a handful of carriers, including Intrado, which manages the service for customers.
How Is Operator Connect Different From Teams Direct Routing?
Operator Connect is the next iteration of Direct Routing. It expands on the features offered by the former PSTN enabler but is simpler to connect. Operator Connect gives streamlined calling new meaning through a few new features.
Direct Routing is an effective tool to support companies that need flexibility or have complex calling requirements. These requirements could be anything from advanced network configurations to integrating with other applications, such as external contact centers. Direct Routing also delivers cost benefits, mainly through communication service providers offering “pay-for-what-you-use” pricing models.
Overall, organizations that want to: (1) consolidate their voice systems to a single network; (2) achieve greater feature parity with their phone system, or (3) add regional offices in areas Microsoft doesn’t cover, have turned to Direct Routing.
Operator Connect achieves all the same things as Direct Routing but is easier to set up. A system administrator opens the “Operators” tab in Teams’ admin center; from there, they choose from a list of qualified carriers. The admin can then select their preferred carrier and acquire and assign phone numbers to their users. (With Direct Routing, this process occurs via coding in a separate portal. With Operator Connect, it only takes a few clicks within a single admin interface.)
Benefits of using Operator Connect include:
- Greater autonomy to add and manage essential voice services through Microsoft
- User’s choice of provider
- Cost savings with the “pay-as-you-go” pricing structure
- Option for businesses that want to alleviate the burden of technical support
Why Should I Use Operator Connect?
If you’re considering Direct Routing or use it today, Operator Connect is a better choice. It provides the same functionality and is easier to manage. Plus, Microsoft has qualified all of the carriers.
Operator Connect works well for companies that want to remove the burden of bringing their own PSTN solution into Teams. With Operator Connect, companies don’t have to buy their own session border controllers (SBCs) or manage functionality internally. Instead, Operator Connect partners handle all of the technicalities, which saves time and resources.
Operator Connect Benefits
Operator Connect’s upfront benefits are simplicity and seamlessness with setting up calling via Teams. Other capabilities that help businesses improve collaboration with their teams and customers include:
1. Choice of Carriers From an Approved List
Users get to select an approved carrier, like Intrado, that has been vetted and verified by Microsoft. According to Pete Daderko, senior product marketing manager of Teams, "Since these carriers must qualify to participate, you can feel confident with enhanced technical support and reliability."
2. Reliable Business Continuity
Companies experience minimal (if any) disruption to calling and other UC functions during the migration process to Teams, especially if their carrier is on the Microsoft approved list. Once implemented, internal teams won’t notice that anything has changed and can place calls like normal.
One key benefit of Operator Connect is the tech support the carriers provide. These carriers have shared service level agreements, which boost accountability and quality, two elements that can impact customer support.
In addition, direct peering via Microsoft Azure—which Operator Connect provides—ensures a 1:1 network connection for greater reliability. Reliable connections correlate to business continuity. Intrado has invested in network infrastructure to keep customers’ connections secure, even in the face of unpredictable circumstances. As a result, customers have built-in disaster recovery plans and the confidence that their communications will stay online.
3. Streamlined System Deployment
Operator Connect shortens the time and process of deploying telecom capabilities. It takes just minutes for system admins to connect their preferred carrier and assign phone numbers to users. Individuals do not need to be telecom experts to set up calling in Teams, nor do they need to deploy PowerShell coding. As a result, businesses simplify the migration process and reduce overall time investment to seamlessly get calling up and running.
4. Easier Infrastructure Management
Carriers manage PSTN calling services and SBCs, which removes management responsibilities from users. As a result, businesses can save on hardware purchases and management. The carrier is in charge of ensuring the system runs smoothly, which means less responsibility on the user’s shoulders.
Operator Connect Conferencing
When Microsoft launched Operator Connect, it also announced Operator Connect Conferencing. This service taps into the benefits of a “bring-your-own-carrier” platform by letting users hold conference calls in Teams using their own carriers' phone numbers. These PSTN-enabled numbers connect audio to the conferencing bridge, making conference calling via Teams easy and accessible.
Like its parent system, Operator Connect Conferencing also delivers a unique set of benefits to customers. Below are four helpful benefits users gain by deploying Operator Connect Conferencing in Teams.
1. Bring Your Own Carrier for Conferencing
Users can maintain their preferred carrier contracts as they migrate existing PSTN infrastructure to the cloud. Operator Connect Conferencing marks the first time users have an option other than Microsoft for conferencing in Teams. Bringing their own carrier also reduces the need for businesses to transfer telephony resources, saving them time and money.
2. Variety of Carriers
With Operator Connect Conferencing, users can add other carrier-grade operators, which helps diversify PSTN infrastructure. Diversifying PSTN gives you more options to choose which companies you partner with and the services you choose to deploy.
3. Expanded Geographic Coverage
Operator Connect Conferencing provides a list of dial-in numbers and locations to support international communications. This keeps global teams and customers connected and helps domestic companies expand into new markets.
4. Enhanced Support and Reliability
Operator Connect Conferencing creates a close partnership between the business and the carrier because the carrier is deeply ingrained in the businesses’ core calling and collaboration needs. As a trusted Microsoft partner, the carriers meet a standard of quality in their technical guidance and reliability of their services. As a result, the company gains enhanced support and expert service level agreements.
What Does This Mean for Intrado Customers?
Intrado is one of 12 initial Operator Connect partners. We do not take this responsibility lightly. As a gold-certified Microsoft Partner, we offer a seamless Operator Connect integration experience for customers. We’ve even incorporated Operator Connect into Hoot Connect for Microsoft Teams and continue to work with Microsoft to enable the latest in enterprise collaboration for our customers.