Microsoft Teams has been one of the success stories of the pandemic. While Zoom may have caught the headlines for consumers and schools, in a business environment Teams has really taken off – reaching 250M monthly active users in July 2021.
For telcos this trend has been somewhere between an opportunity and a threat. If a business cancels its business phone service and replaces it with Teams with a Microsoft Calling Plan then you’ve lost all of that business. On the other hand, if you can offer Teams Direct Routing at an affordable price then at least you can keep the business, and maybe this even creates an opportunity to work more closely with business customers as a managed service provider.
For those who aren’t familiar, Teams Direct Routing is an option where a service provider with a certified SBC (e.g. a Perimeta) can offer a SIP trunk to a business, and then any PSTN calls from the Teams clients in that business will be routed over that SIP trunk. It’s just like a SIP trunk to a PBX, except that the PBX is the Microsoft Teams Phone System.
This sounds simple enough, but in reality it’s a bit more tricky.
First, since the “PBX” in this case is really the Teams Phone System in Azure, you have to go through some fairly complex configuration to build a SIP connection (with all the appropriate headers) between your SBC and the Phone System. But at least that’s a “one-and-done” task.
More challenging from an organizational point-of-view, is that Direct Routing requires quite a bit of configuration by the business’s Office 365 administrator. There are many pages of documentation here but fundamentally the IT administrator needs to add a bunch of licensing and routing configuration for every user within the business who uses Teams Direct Routing. This is generally best accomplished with a scripting language named PowerShell.
As a service provider, this presents you with a bit of a challenge.
- The configuration task itself is pretty complex, and (of course) is different for each business customer.
- The task can’t be performed by your technicians, but needs to be performed by the Microsoft administrator for the business.
- Most mid-sized businesses don’t have an administrator with strong PowerShell skills.
There are third party software platforms that can sit in the middle and automate some of this, but (of course) they come at a cost (reduced margin in some form).
What can you do?
If you’re focused on Direct Routing, there are three main options at the moment (please email me if you see others!):
- Look at some of the third-party options like TeamMate, Call2Teams, or iPilot from Nuwave that make some of the provisioning easier.
- Pre-qualify your business customers to make sure they have a strong Office 365 administrator with PowerShell expertise.
- Be prepared to work closely with your customers to help them with the Office 365 configuration during the initial turn up of their Direct Routing service – in other words, walk them through the PowerShell configuration step-by-step.
We’ve spent the last few months building our expertise in Teams and PowerShell, so that we can help our clients figure this out. If you’re working to launch Teams Direct Routing, and you’re having issues with the PowerShell piece, please do reach out and we’d love to talk to you about your experiences as we refine our PowerShell service offering.