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Office 365 Teams Gets Direct Routing Support

Organizations can now make phone calls from the Microsoft Teams client by way of the newly available Direct Routing phone service capability.

Microsoft announced the general availability of Direct Routing on Thursday, meaning the feature is now ready for use in production environments by organizations. The capability was at the preview stage just last month.

Direct Routing is a Phone System add-on for Office 365 subscribers that lets organizations use their local phone service provider to make public switched telephone network (PSTN) phone calls. Phone System, formerly called "Cloud PBX," can be purchased separately, or it's offered as part of an Office 365 E5 subscription plan.

Organizations might opt to use Direct Routing if they want to stick with their phone service provider in enabling telephony and if they want manage the service on premises. Alternatively, Microsoft offers a Calling Plans Office 365 add-on option (formerly known as "PSTN Calling") in which Microsoft acts as the local phone service provider.

Direct Routing requires the use of certified session border controller (SBC) hardware devices along with having telephony service from a telco. Microsoft's announcement listed two partners that offer certified SBCs for use with Direct Routing, namely AudioCodes and Ribbon. However, some of Microsoft's partners also offer so-called "hosted SBCs."

It's not clear from the announcement if hosted SBCs are currently available. Here's how Microsoft described this option:

Back in May 2018, we also began working with providers around the world on a second scenario to ensure that customers who wanted a hosted architecture would have options. This can mean hosted SBCs, additional management capabilities, and other services. We encourage you to reach out to this first set of providers who tested Direct Routing in their environments -- BezeQ International, BT, Cellip, Nuwave, Orange Business Services, Swisscom, TATA, Telekom Deutschland, Telenor, Thinktel, and West to learn more about their offerings. As we go forward, we expect more companies to offer solutions and services with Direct Routing to our joint customers.

Direct Routing serves as a kind of telephony stepping stone for organizations using Teams, which is Microsoft's workspace collaboration service. Teams provides e-mail and chat for end users, but it also supports the ability to make phone calls through the client interface.

Organizations also have the option to use Microsoft's Skype for Business unified communications solution to make phone calls, which can be used adjunctively with Teams. However, Microsoft plans to replace the Skype for Business Online client with the Teams client eventually, as it outlined back in September.

It's clear that Microsoft wants to move its Office 365 customers over to using the Teams client when making phone calls. Organizations now have the option to use Direct Routing or Calling Plans to add telephony to the Teams client if they want to move in that direction.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.