November 16

Microsoft Teams: Operator Connect vs Direct Routing


In a previous article, we discussed how Direct Routing in Teams works. Today, we’re going to discuss another similar feature that provides PSTN connectivity with Teams and Phone System. This new service is called Operator Connect. This is an operator managed service that allows businesses to directly enable PSTN calling from their existing carriers in Microsoft Teams. This new service benefits smaller sized businesses that want to operate and manage their own phone numbers directly through Teams. 

For larger businesses that have comparatively more complicated needs, Operator Connect might not have the flexibility required to support hybrid working or other key functions such as call center. Direct Routing and Operator Connect are two capabilities by Microsoft for basic voice services that help Teams evolve into a business phone system.

What is Operator Connect in Microsoft Teams?

Operator Connect is an operator managed service that brings PSTN calling to Teams. With Operator Connect, businesses can bring their own PSTN carrier (from Microsoft’s approved list, obviously) to enable Microsoft Teams calling via a managed service.

IT admins can easily connect their provider and assign phone numbers to users all from within the tab labelled “Operators” directly within the Teams admin dashboard.

Operator Connect basically closes the gap between Microsoft calling plans and direct routing, allowing businesses to benefit from some of the cost savings that come from direct routing while choosing their own carrier. For smaller business with under 50 employees and no complex requirements, Operator Connect could be the ideal choice for the ideal calling experience in teams.

 Operator Connect users with Microsoft also get direct peering between the SIP Trunking infrastructure and Team's platform.

Benefits of Operator Connect

  • Cost savings of a direct routing service – pay for what you use instead of paying per user
  • Bring your own carrier for outbound calls and inbound calls  
  • It’s a simple solution for a business with no complex requirements
  • Can be activated quickly
  • Internal IT teams can assign telephone numbers to active users without having to go through an external service provider 
  • Useful for businesses that want to manage their communications within the Teams admin contact center
  • Operator connect conferencing
  • Operator Connect allows you to bring your own operator to Teams with a fully managed and integrated experience.
  • Operator Connect Conferencing makes it easy to add dial-in numbers to Microsoft Audio Conferencing. 

What is Direct Routing?

In comparison to Operator Connect, Direct Routing is a carrier-grade service that provides more power and flexibility and remains the better choice as a telephony solution for larger businesses with more complex requirements.

Microsoft Phone System Direct Routing lets you connect a supported, customer-provided Session Border Controller (SBC) to Microsoft Phone System. With this capability, for example, you can configure on-premises Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) connectivity with Microsoft Teams client.

With Direct Routing solutions, you can connect your SBC to almost any telephony trunk or interconnect with third-party PSTN equipment. Direct Routing enables you to:

  • Use virtually any PSTN trunk with Microsoft Phone System for a modern calling experience.
  • Configure interoperability between customer-owned telephony equipment, such as a third-party private branch exchange (PBX), analog devices, and Microsoft Phone System.

Microsoft also offers all-in-the-cloud voice solutions, such as Calling Plan. However, a hybrid voice solution might be best for your organization if:

  • Microsoft Calling Solution is not available in your country.
  • Your organization requires connection to third-party analog devices, call centers, external provider and so on.
  • Your organization has an existing contract with a PSTN carrier.

Direct Routing also supports users who have the additional license and service level agreements for the Microsoft Calling Plan.

Benefits of Teams Direct Routing

  • Lets you leverage your existing contracts
  • Your IT Admins can run adoption programs and batch migrations while allowing Teams users and non-Teams users to communicate with each other.
  • Teams Direct Routing eliminates the need for any call carrying equipment
  • Cost efficient service model
  • Direct routing allows companies to maintain control over its phone numbers and dial plan, rather than porting numbers directly to Microsoft. 

Operator Connect vs Direct Routing

Now that we have the overview of what the two services do, let’s see how they’re compared to each other.

Operator Connect

Direct Routing

Customer Provisioning Experience

Phone numbers visible in Teams Admin Center

IT admin can assign numbers and policies through Teams portal

Complex Integration

Not Available

Integration with contact centers, local PSTN, etc.

Country Coverage

Local voice service with emergency calling initially in 25 countries

Available in over 80 countries

Analog Devices

Not Available

Fax, DECT, security systems and more

Target Market

Designed for SMBs and enterprises with simpler requirements in deregulated countries

Ideal solution for MNCs and large enterprises with complex integration requirements

Changes in working practices due to the pandemic mean that many businesses now have more complicated requirements if they are to fully support their remote working teams. Distributed teams are working online and although face-to-face meetings will return, many businesses will adopt, in whole or in part, flexible working practices. For businesses to meet these changing demands, flexibility and dedicated tailored support is a must to keep communication flowing and business moving. 

As new options emerge that make Microsoft Teams, a unified communications solution, an even more essential resource for businesses, consider how to make the most of the tools available to you. As one of a few official Microsoft Gold Partners, Communication Square can support seamless integrations and provide the right tools and support to deliver end-to-end, fully managed digital communication and the right collaboration solution for companies. 

(Last Updated On: November 27, 2021)

Last Updated 6 months ago

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About the Author

Rijah is a professional Marketing Executive & content specialist. You may know her from her greatest hits like, "No, I can't just make it go viral." or "No, you can't have everybody as your audience." and "Yes, you're absolutely going to need a copywriter!"

Rijah Naseem

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