Upcoming Microsoft Teams Features Include Offline Support, Telephony Option

Microsoft recently announced several enhancements to the Microsoft Teams collaboration platform that will be "available later this year." They include:

  • Offline support for Teams, as well as support for low-bandwidth connections.
  • Teams chats that pop out in a separate Windows.
  • The addition of the Bookings app in Teams.
  • Upgrades to the Shifts app in Teams for "firstline managers and firstline workers," plus Shifts integration with Kronos Workforce Central v.8.1, and a "Your Shifts" view for end users.
  • Real-time noise suppression to address background noise on Teams connections.
  • A "raise hand" feature for Teams video participants.

More details on these new Teams features are described in this Microsoft announcement. It specifically described a coming "new Satin codec" used with Teams to improve the calling experience, even with low-bandwidth connections.

"Teams will soon be able to deliver crystal clear wideband audio with as little as 7 kbps!" the announcement indicated with regard to the Satin codec. This new Microsoft-developed codec be coming to Teams users "in the coming months."

In addition, Teams users will be able to communicate with users of the consumer Skype videoconferencing service, starting "by the end of March" with the availability of a new Teams and Skype interoperability preview.

Microsoft also announced a few things noteworthy for IT pros. In "the next few weeks," Microsoft will bump up the Teams group chat limit to "up to 250 people." Next month, Microsoft plans to increase the size of Teams team memberships from "5,000 to 10,000 users."

Licensing Additions
Microsoft expanded some licensing options associated with Teams use.

First, Microsoft is adding a Microsoft 365 Business Voice telephony option for small and medium business users of Teams in the U.S. market, starting on April 1, per an announcement. On that date, Microsoft 365 Business Voice will be available in more than 70 countries for businesses using "a calling plan provided by a third party," the announcement added.

Microsoft 365 Business Voice is described as being similar to Microsoft's earlier Enterprise Voice telephony solution. Organizations with "any Office 365 or Microsoft 365 subscription that includes Teams" can add it for a monthly cost.

Here's how Microsoft described Microsoft 365 Business Voice, which supports voice-over-IP calls, but also calls using the public switched telephone network:

Microsoft 365 Business Voice combines essential telephony components into a single package for $20 per user, per month. It includes a phone system, audio conferencing, and domestic calling plan.

Microsoft 365 Business Voice is described as removing the hassles of maintaining a PBX. The announcement included a walkthrough on how to set up phone numbers for employees via a graphical user interface-based administrative console. The Teams Admin Center also can be used for certain actions.

Second, Microsoft is adding a new F1 "firstline workers" option for Microsoft 365 Enterprise subscribers, supplanting the current F1 option. The new F1 plan, providing access to "Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Yammer, Stream, and Enterprise Security + Management," will cost $4 per user per month and will get "rolled out" on April 1, per an announcement. The old F1 plan, priced at $10 per user per month, will get renamed as the "F3" plan at that time. Microsoft's announcement included a table showing the plan differences.

These firstline workers plans will have access to the Walkie Talkie audio and video feature of Teams. It lets mobile devices substitute for Walkie Talkie communication devices. The Walkie Talkie feature will be available "starting in July." It'll be supported on Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro mobile devices.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.